R. A. Salvatore on Using First and Third Person in the Same Book


Do you have a question about your fantasy novel, short story, or spot of flash fiction that’s burning for an answer (or even just a question about writing or the column in general)? If so, please email your question in to: me "at" susanjmorris "dot" com.


Hi Susan,

Thanks so much for the blog, it helped during NaNoWriMo! I have a question with first person and third person point of view being in one novel and was wondering if you can give any insight on the technique?   

Thanks, Desiree


Hi Desiree, 

Thank you for the question! And I’m glad you found Writers Don’t Cry useful, especially during that trial tribulation terrific thing called NaNoWriMo (seriously, NaNoWriMo is really awesome—if also really hard!).

SalvatoreFor as often as first person and third person are used together in the same novel, your question is actually kind of a tricky one! First person, while seductive in its seeming simplicity, is actually an incredibly difficult technique to master. Similarly, third person, while omnipresent, is far from easy—requiring the mastery of various “narrative distances” to truly work it to its best effect. And using both in the same novel? Adds a whole new level of tricky! Luckily, I did say if I couldn’t answer it, I’d find an author who could.

And who better to answer this question than the author who first sent shockwaves through the fantasy community with this very technique: R. A. Salvatore. A New York Times bestselling author, Salvatore has been using first and third person together in his novels to great acclaim for 23 years now, inspiring countless other authors to start weaving in first person with their third, and cementing it as yet another benchmark of the fantasy tradition. Fortunately for us, he was happy to answer your question. I hope you enjoy his response!

If you want to see examples of his master technique in action, check out his latest book The Last Threshold, which comes out tomorrow. I, myself, can't wait!


R. A. Salvatore on Using First and Third Person in the Same Book

When I sat down to start The Dark Elf Trilogy, I thought I'd do it in the first person point of view. One of my favorite series is Roger Zelazny's amazing Amber story--I don't know that I've ever seen first person done better, honestly--and I thought that, since this new trilogy would have a laser focus on a single character, that point of view might work well. I ran into trouble immediately. First, the book actually begins before my main character is even born, and second, first person simply doesn't work with one of my favorite interludes: the battle scene. (See also: R. A. Salvatore on How to Write a Damn Good Fight Scene.)

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