1. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Angle of attack on an internal conflict?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Smoke, Mar 27, 2011.

    The character is suffering from a curse of insanity that affected him from the moment of his birth. The other sufferers gained it in their adult lives, resulting in lust for power and damaged moral compasses.

    For the from-birth character, he grows up without realizing what exactly is wrong with him. He eventually learns about the curse and eventually is aware of the struggle between the madness and what he would be without it.

    One side is prideful, vengeful, unyielding, and a megalomaniac. The other side has doubt, compromise, and compassion. The twist is that he thinks that the doubt comes from the madness and that the megalomaniac side is what he would be naturally.

    Having him talk to himself in an internal dialogue didn't work well, and the rambling thoughts weren't much better. Is there another tactic I could try to make both the struggling with madness and being on the wrong side of it apparent?
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Well I guess I would have to ask why your first two approaches didn't work. With the little that you have said, I don't see why either of them wouldn't?
     
  3. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Different fonts= different personalities. It's a cliche because it works.

    You could have one personality be "in control" of the action while the other personality tries to argue against the current action. Imagine writing a scene with a backseat driver complaining about the way the driver is driving. Then, have that going on inside the MC's head during an action scene.
     
  4. abelsaywell
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    abelsaywell Member

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    It's been done before but you could have an aspect of his madness be another personality, or voice, that inspects his actions and motivations. He could be unaware that this voice is a facet of his own mind but you could make the internal voice the more rational and likable of the two.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Read some stories with unreliable narrators, like "A&P" (that one just has a 19-year-old acting like a 13-year-old who doesn't get how immature he is, but unreliable narrator all the same; can't think of any insanity ones but I"m sure there are loads).

    Put the MC in situations and show, not tell, how he is wrong...so the reader gets it but the MC doesn't...

    sorry if this isn't helpful lol but read some unreliable narrator stories and you'll see what I mean.
     
  6. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    The rambling thoughts one wasn't coming out; my fingers didn't know what my brain wanted. The internal dialogue came off as schizophrenic and too well-defined.

     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Try reading Philip K. Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly. It's quiet effective depicting the sort of thing you're talking about.

    I will say that if you're trying to find some technique in terms of font or internal monologue, you're not going to be successful (imo) as it will just feel cheesy like a trope. Especially using different fonts. And having characters talk to themselves or inanimate objects went out of favor years ago (like in the 60's, I'd argue lol).

    The best way to depict this, or anything in fiction, is always the same: a close, limited perspective that delivers full empathy through and for the character.

    That way, you don't have to pull out of the story to try to explain what's going on to the reader. If it's not clear in a close, limited pov/perspective, it means the character is either ill conceived or you simply aren't capturing the truth of the moment/scene/character/etc. In such cases, no amount of explaining to the reader or use of gimmicks is going to help.
     
  8. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    It only came out that way because you haven't defined anything. I see the schizophrenic thing, but if that's how he talks to himself as your character why are you labeling him? Let him do what he does in your mind. Give the dialogue definition and it will work.

    I have come too far to be stopped now, " his mind rambles

    "The girl may have been honest in wanting to help you." he argues back.

    "You know all about hiding things," sarcasm lingers in the empty air of his mind.

    "You know all about hiding things. Every silence can be met with justification."

    "Do not trouble me!" Kain whirls on an opponent that does not exist, spinning in the empty room, his hands grasping his head.



    I've been a bit dramatic, but I think you can see what I'm saying?
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let the madness take the form of extreme emotions rather then extreme thoughts. Then the thoughts remain "sane" but have to deal with extreme external circumstances. Then you will have a struggle between an abyssal despise of something emotionally, and how he tries to deal with it intellectually.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you considered putting your novel into first person? Just ranting like this is much better when you slip from first into third, instead of third into first.

    For example: I look in the mirror. Angus that doesn't look good. I touch my cheek, gently tracing the bruises. Moving towards the mirror I look closely at the swollen blood shot eye. Damn! Angus that fight was stupid, look at the state of your face. You do know you are talking to yourself don't you? Yep Angus you are offcially going mad. You are a total prat you are going to have a black eye. Lifting up my top I wince further as I slowly touch the bruises on my chest. Angus next time just walk away. I start running the cold tap filling the sink. Using the facecloth I gingerly begin to clean the blood off my face. Angus as a king you really shouldn't be fighting, even with that snot Jack.

    My other question would be with the internal dialogue is what is he doing whilst it is going on? Pardon if I mess too much with your voice, I don't know your story but this is along the lines of what I would do. Oh and sorry about first person it is what I am working in today and I it's ingrained.


    'I have come too far to be stopped now.' I grab the ball from the side and fling myself on the bed.

    'The girl may have been honest in wanting to help you.'

    'If she were honest, she would not have hidden anything.' My face tenses and I throw the ball hard towards the ceiling.

    'You know all about hiding things. Every silence can be met with justification.' I catch the ball and pull a face.

    'Do not trouble me!' You do know you are talking to yourself right. I throw the ball hard again.

    This isn't working I stand up and throw the ball hard, it smashes my mirror. 'You could go back to Janos and apologize. He doesn't need to be your enemy.'

    'He dares to defy me' I grab my coat and start heading for the door, 'He won't get away with this.

    'He disagrees with your actions.' My hand hovers over the door handle. I pull it back and start to turn away.

    'He has no right to dictate to me.' I turn back and grab it opening the door.

    'And now he has your toy.' I open the door and march out. My fist is clenching.
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    For an example of what I mean, imo this passage isn't working because it's you, the writer, depicting something instead of simply the character existing and the reader getting an inside look at that existence.

    People, even this character I imagine, don't think/act/feel this way. It's contrived to try to imagine the character thinking "Well, since this arguing isn't placating my madness, I'll withdraw my sane mind..."

    It's too self-conscious. Instead of referring to internal arguments, the reader should simply be experience them, watching as the character simply experiences them.

    In the best contemporary writing, no matter genre, manages to dissolve the narrator. Instead of reading a writer telling us a story, the reader experiences the story directly.

    I'd suggest going through your manuscript and marking all the points that sound like a narrator or writer is stepping in explaining things the character wouldn't be thinking, feeling or experiencing. Cut all those things out and replace them (when appropriate) with how the CHARACTER is feeling thinking or acting in those situations, and I think you'll find your writing become more effective.

    You may still not be able to achieve your goals and make it work, but it will at least be an issue close to the character and story (the kinds of things that are worked out when figuring out what a character's deal is or what the story is really about) instead of simply issues with formatting or technical aspects.

    Even technical aspects like which pov is being employed will rarely be the 'ah hah' moment that makes a story work. It may help the writer figure out how to make the story work, but all those things are ancillary and usually come as a byproduct of truly understanding what you're trying to write, and then writing it in the most accurate, realistic, empathetic way. The story should lead to formatting, formatting shouldn't lead to a story.

    It seems you're trying to find formatting and techniques that make your story work, when in reality you need to find a story that makes your formatting and techniques work. Meaning, if you find a way to depict the truth of a moment in a story, the formatting won't really even matter, so worrying about it before you've got the story even working is a flawed approach.
     
  12. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I'm a bit bent on third person, especially with how much my experiments in first-person annoyed me.

    The POV drifts between several characters in a rather seamless manner, to the extreme where a scene starts with one character musing, another character walks into the room, and suddenly the first character's inner motives go completely unknown in favor of the "more interesting" newcomer.

    Other times, I really need the freedom to show the conflict where both characters are deliberately hiding things or else to showcase a misunderstanding. Sometimes it's as much as a sentence off-character to show that one is deliberately not acting on an insult, only to see several sentences later that it wasn't an insult.

    BTW, your example was in such a wrong voice that it was hilarious. :)
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    In my opinion, this is what I'm talking about with my previous post as trying to treat symptoms instead of a disease. I've never, ever, in the thousands of manuscripts I've read, or hundreds of student writers I've worked with, seen a story suddenly work because the writer finally changed the pov to the 'right' one.

    Sure, it may help the writer figure out their story, and a new perspective is always good. In fact, I'd recommend all writers writer everything in all POV's, just to get a varied look at their story and find what form they're comfortable with. But I've literally never seen a POV change somehow fix a flawed manuscript.

    However, I've seen a lot of flawed manuscripts remain flawed as writers struggle to find a technical thing they can change to make it all work. Usually focusing on form and technique is simply the easiest thing to do, not the best. It's easier to think one's story is just in the 'wrong' POV and then take the time to transfer it over to the 'right' POV. It's much harder digging into your story and figuring out exactly how and were you're simply failing to build meaning, or failing to deliver emotion, or failing to depict events in an authentic manner.

    Just like how eating sunflower seeds helps me relax and figure out moments that I'm struggling to write. But it's not the sunflower seeds doing the work, it's the writer. So too, it's usually not the POV or font or format or anything technical that is the problem with a manuscript, but something wrong with the actual, real story.

    While formatting and technical issues can be ill conceived, they don't invent themselves (first off) and certainly aren't usually the reason a story isn't working. It's just an easy thing to focus on, an easy thing to understand, an easy thing to fix.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL Sorry Angus is just the voice I am writing in right now (hence first person present tense) - he is a teen with angst, who tends to punch first, think later. He is more of a comic character.

    You can make it more serious using the same ideas with third person - including the third person and grounding it in the scene by showing what the character is doing whilst they are having the internal dialogue - like Trish did.

    It might be better to use my own rather than mess with yours, internal dialogue you get a lot of practice with writing inside a character's head. Nate is dead.


    EDIT:
    Not sure I was commenting on a flawed manuscript just one aspect of the story that may flow better and be easier to write from a different POV. The OP has explained it is not worth changing it for that one scene because the balance of the manuscript works better in third and he struggles with first. I firmly believe if I wrote my first set of stories in third they would be weaker than they are in first. My new stories would be deeply flawed and restricted in first.

    It is for the OP to decide just how pivotal this one scene is and which works best for the story as a whole.
     
  15. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Elgaisma, just because your example clashed doesn't mean it wasn't an effective one. It was just amusing at the same time.

    I think I've decided to try the internal rambling again, possibly this time with "business" rather than just standing on the top of a mountain and wondering what to do next.

    My angle-of-attack is that the reasonable side is coming up with ideas, and he discards them as unreasonable because his dominant megalomaniac doesn't like them.

    In my own life: Why don't I stop bitching about how the mineral oil isn't making my laptop fan quiet and get a replacement instead? Nah, that would cost money and I'd have to find a new problem to bitch about. (Not knowing that sewing machine oil might actually work.)
     
  16. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I have to saythat your original worked much better for me, personally, at conveying madness. This new example just makes him seem normal. Who hasn't contemplated the idea of rear-ending the car in front of them to make them actually do the speed limit? Just a little bump? Of course we know that's crazy, so we don't. Actually arguing with myself... Ummm...no
     
  17. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Does it at least show that he's a cold bastard whose moral compass doesn't point North? That's actually more important than having him acknowledge that he's crazy. Or even showing that he's crazy or effected at all by the curse.
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    ok wasn't sure :) My book is weird has things like Angus talking to himself but also sometimes he does actually have an eight-hundred-year-old Abbot in his head.

    You can do this lol :)

    My crazy bloke is Reverend Allsopp and I do it with diary entries he writes in first, third and second person - blaming God for all his issues - probably going to have him think he is God eventually.
     
  19. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I honestly can't answer that without more of the story. I mean sometimes there are good, human emotional reasons that make sense for not apologizing to someone even when it seems you should. Depending on the context he could become someone your reader is sympathetic to.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not actually disagreeing with a word you say, but I discovered not too long ago that sunflower seeds, like most of the foods that I most strongly crave, are rich in tryptophan, which helps supply serotonin, which produces relaxation and improves mood. So I might give the seeds a little bit of the credit. :)

    ChickenFreak
     
  21. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Maybe I should try those?
     
  22. Bay K.
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    Bay K. Contributing Member

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    Ditto!
    Don't tell me he's insane --show me.
    Let it come out in his reasoning, emotions and dialogue.
     

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