1. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Am I over thinking it? Style over Substance

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sprirj, Feb 2, 2011.

    Don't get me wrong, my novel has substance in terms of the story line, but as a new writer I'm tripping up a little on the delivery.

    My novel is written in first person, it is a mystery type of novel, so the reader can't know all the facts.
    The story is told through my Main Character, but he has multiple voices in his head.
    Now if you heard a voice in your head, you would know instantly, right? You wouldn't give it a second thought if you were used to it.

    So I wouldn't say something like:

    "Look at that over there" Said Bob

    Because thats not how we think. My MC would know it was Bob.

    So my question really is, how do I not confuse the reader, when my MC has voices in his head....

    :confused:
     
  2. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Presumably when first person the person narrating also knows who is speaking to them, you still use dialogue beats, story and tags to identify the speaker.
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thoughts are a jumbled mess of abstract imagery, emotions, formulated dialogue and not so formulated dialogue. If you somehow managed to write thoughts as they are, nobody would be able to stand reading it. Even stream of consciousness is edited to have flow and make sense. Adding dialogue tags is a minor thing in this context. Even acid-heads like David Lynch use (visual) characters to represent paranoid hallucinations, and as such impose some kind of structure and order on things that really have none.
     
  5. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's okay, because the reader doesn't tend to notice dialogue tags, they're just there in the background - just as your MC doesn't actively think about which voice is speaking.

    It's really not different from when a first-person narrator is having a conversation with a physical person in the story. The narrator doesn't think about who they're speaking to all the time, but you can still put "he said" and "she said" here and there to remind the reader of it.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried writing it in 3rd person? Sometimes things that you find you are fighting against end up working with you if you change the POV. And sometimes not, but it's always worth trying it, just to check.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Maybe each voice could have a distinctive character. Bob could sound old and archaic, like H.P. Lovecraft's style, while Frank could talk in colloquail slang. This way, readers will know who it is. :)
     
  8. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    The MC is supposed to be telling you the story, so he has to tell you who's talking. Also, he needs to tell you that he hears voices.

    I look at first first as if you met a stranger in a bar and they start telling you their story to get it off their chest. If the storyteller has some amazing talent, then he has to tell me or the story won't make sense.

    Example:

    Ever since I was fourteen I've had a bunch of friends I could always count on, but then again I never got any privacy, if you know what I mean. I doubt you do though because these friends live in my head. I never told anyone that before because I heard it's a sign of being crazy and if I know anything, I know I'm not crazy.

    Bob, is this dude who sounds like this college professor type and Fred sounds like a farmer and both guys are smart and their advice has saved my ass multiple times. Janet talks with a New York accent and is a bit of a bitch, but she's practical. Dirk is like some kind of sociopath, but damn is he a funny dude, but he doesn't like Bob and Fred much and they create a freakin' racket in my head. That's when I need to hit the bottom and none of 'em like the hangover, so that's how I keep them in line.

    "Listen motherf@cker, you don't keep anybody in line," snarled Dirk.

    "Yeah, okay brother, I was just being figurative for the story, kay," I thought sarcastically.

    and so on.

    That's how I'd do it.
     
  9. TheStrawman
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    TheStrawman New Member

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    I have always said, execution.

    Only execution.

    In my mind, the style of a story is much more important than the content. You can take a retarded, cliché, overwritten idea, but if the style is new and unique, it will be much more entertaining.

    Style is what grabs people. What stands out. Content is just filling the 'space.' Content is important. I won't tell you it isn't. The content needs to be solid as well.

    But the style is the presentation. What people actually 'see.' They (readers) see the images and abstract concepts of your content in the mind. But that is transmitted to them through the style.

    If I had to make a scale, I would say style and execution of a concept is 80% of good story telling. The other 20% is for solid content, meaning believable characters, interesting setting, new ideas, clear visuals, and similar things.

    Just sit back and think 'how' you want to tell the story. You have the story you want to tell. Now you just need to figure out how.

    And to do that, you just need to make sure other people can understand it. Give people snipets of the writing you are worried about. Workshop it. Let people find out what isn't working. Or what parts are confusing. Then you can take that and use it.

    But it's hard. For me the style is the hardest part. Because it's a strange, unknow form of communication.
     
  10. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Thanks so far. I think I need to just keep writing, and hopefully a style I like will evolve, and then I'll go back and re-write for the 2nd draft.

    I did consider and almost robotic structure, like a screenplay...

    blah blah blah mc chats away about something
    Bob: Don't look now
    blah blah blah mc chats away about something
    Fred: Listen to Bob!!!

    etc

    Or maybe a rhythm, so over time the reader will recognise when a certain voice will speak up (eg when the MC is angry/happy etc).


    On the earlier post, can someone explain the David Lynch reference. I don't know much of his style/work.
     
  11. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I had an after thought. Could I put the voices into brackets?

    eg.

    ************
    I must keep awake, keep my eyes on that door... who ever opens it, they are the one I've been searching for, keep focused.... eyes fixed (look over there!) No keep eyes on the door. (quick, you will miss it) Focus. Focus. (What if you are wrong?)(Yeah what if that door never opens).
    *************

    Would this type presentation work? Can a reader grasp that the brackets show another voice from the same MC? Did you realise there were more than 2 voices in his head with the double brackets?


    I just want a style that flows rather than, as I said before, having to point out its a voice each time.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can try pretty much anything, and see whether it works. I just grabbed Gary Gibson's Stealing Light, published by Tor (an imprint of Pan Macmillan) and he puts all speech by the spaceship computer in angle brackets <like this>. He also puts thoughts in italics, which some here would have you believe makes your work unpublishable. What matters is that what you write engages the commissioning editor, and that anything unconventional looks deliberate (rather than a mistake) and doesn't jar.
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to point out that it's a voice every time - you could just write it like ordinary dialogue, using the name of the voice, and start a new line every time the speaker changes.

    BUT - if you want to mix the narrator's thoughts with the voices within the same paragraph, I think it would work to put the voices in brackets. It looks fairly clear and easy to read to me.

    Not sure. You could use some dialogue to clarify early on that the text in brackets are the voices. E.g:

     
  14. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    That character would be tough to do in 1st. I think you're better off in 3rd.
    If you're stuck on 1st though, you'd have to do something like this:
    "blah blah blah," Bob said in my head. Jimbo disagreed. He told me, "blah blah blah BLAH!"
    You'd have to make sure you're VERY clear on the voices. Give them names & character traits.
    Don't know if I'd attempt it personally.
     
  15. Flows
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    Flows New Member

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    It's both. How well can you stylize what's been beaten into the ground? For me, I don't have an issue coming up with a unique plot but I have difficulty adding style.

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