I'm writing a horror short-story, and at the end the main character dies and his partner is whisked away forever. I had intended to write it in first-person, because the narrative becomes more personal that way and you can really get into the head of the main character. This answer asserts that a first-person narrator has to survive to tell the tale. I know of only one way around this, which is a journal that ends right before the main character's death (The Haunter in Darkness, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), but in my story his death is only half of what makes the ending interesting so that won't work.

I had already intended to switch the POV for the last paragraph and write it in third person, so the reader can watch what happens to the two men. But does the sequence I'm going for constrain the whole story to third person?

  • Have you seen this question and does it help you? Jun 23, 2020 at 16:46
  • Please, PLEASE, do not write in first person, present tense! First person past tense is fine (some of my favorite books -- Zelazny's Amber series -- were in first person), but present tense is very, very bad.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 24, 2020 at 11:12
  • @ZeissIkon I would argue that First Person Present Tense is not, in and of itself, bad, but rather that it's very easy to do badly - or, conversely, much harder to do well. Second person narrative has similar problems, but is is possible to write a good book in any tense. Jun 24, 2020 at 11:54
  • @ZeissIkon just because you don't like it doesn't make it bad. Every technique has its place when done well. The Hunger Games used first person present to great effect. Jun 24, 2020 at 11:59
  • @ArcanistLupus Probably a good thing I've never tried to read the books, then. Present tense is bad enough in itself, but combine it with first person, and it becomes effectively unreadable. There may be masters who can get away with it -- but Heinlein, Zelazny, etc. are dead.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 24, 2020 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


I don't know if this fits your story, but you could send your main character's soul to some form of afterlife place. Assuming there is some way the souls can watch earth, he could observe what happened after his death. He could be telling the story to some fellow soul whom he met in afterlife.


There have been a number of books and movies that included "And then I died -- but I got better!" moments. One of the best done ones was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (movie, 1988): "And that was but one of many times I have died -- an experience I highly recommend!"

Another end-run is like the ending of Fallen (movie, 1998) -- "I told you, this was a story about the time I almost died." The mislead, from the first words of the prologue, was that the antagonist's speech was narrated in the protagonist's voice, and written so it seemed, right up until the end, to be the protagonist narrating (from the grave, as it appeared).

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