I'm writing a conversation between some no-good thievin' teens, and one of them has stolen a wallet, which has turned out to be that of an FBI member.

They converse, written in indirect speech, where there's a back-and-forth argument.

How do I do this effectively using free indirect?

  • 1
    You already figured out by yourself that using free indirect in this situation is inefficient. Why insist on it?
    – FFN
    Nov 11, 2017 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


The third person narrator can describe the thoughts and feelings of the characters, both of them, without restriction.

Instead of the dialogue of a conversation between Bill and Chuck, I would describe the effect of each line on the participants, with paragraph breaks (and the use of names) to indicate which mind the narrator is reading.

->Bill, always the more fearless of the two, saw the Id as an opportunity for great mischief. He was irritated that Chuck did not agree, the chicken heart.

->Chuck was angry at that, anytime he argued against one of Bill's truly stupid ideas, he gets accused of cowardice. It was just common sense! How long before the FBI agent reported his Id lost? Approximately zero, that's how long. The damn thing was toxic, wipe your prints off it then burn it and bury the ashes, that was the thing to do.

->Bill wasn't having any of it. They could at least rob some rich houses, flash the Id and demand entry. Or a convenience store or something, the Id would at least prevent anyone from pulling a gun or shooting.

->Right, thought Chuck. Then we are wanted by the FBI, because whoever we rob is going to call them the second we leave. Should we kill them? Maybe we'll do that on video, if there are security cameras we didn't see. Burn it!

And so on.


Since free indirect speech relies on the narrator picking up the dialogue instead of relying on a lot of "John said that he thought that..." or similar, it's going to make it difficult (but not impossible) to hold an argument with the narrator apparently putting forward opposing views.

Free indirect speech makes one question more important [my opinion] than any other : Who is the narrator?

If the narrator has a strong persona and a significant influence in the way the story is told, there might be cases where free indirect speech could confuse the reader and falling back to indirect / reported speech (or even direct quotation) would be best for the flow of the writing.

Good luck with this one. If it works it's a nice idea, but I'm not sure I could pull it off.

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