1. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46

    Character talking to himself? But How?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Indarican, Apr 9, 2016.

    Hey All, I am in a little bit of a writing ditch here need a little advice. I have a character in my WIP who has gone off the deep end. Due to losing his lady love in the story he begins to talk to himself, as in have full blown conversations with himself. He knows that he talks to himself so I can't make his subconscious be someone else but I am really unsure as to how I can get the dialogue into the book and with what tags I should use.
    Should I just italicized everything that his subconscious says back to him? Not sure but that just seems like a lot of italics.
     
  2. Aaron Smith
    Online

    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    401
    What narrative are you using?
     
  3. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46
    First person
     
  4. Aaron Smith
    Online

    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    401
    This makes things a lot easier. Ever heard of "stream of consciousness"? I think it would work.
     
  5. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46
    I looked up what it meant and in none of the examples that I saw does it actually have a dialogue between the person and their subconscious and how to write them in my work.
    Do you have an example of somewhere I could look?
     
  6. Aaron Smith
    Online

    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    401
    Then I am not quite sure what you mean by having a conversation with oneself.
     
  7. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46
    Just as an example, it would be something like this...

    "I do not want to eat my broccoli"
    BROCCOLI IS GOOD FOR YOU, REMEMBER MOTHER SAYS.
    "Maybe if I just had the cake instead"
    YOU'LL SPOIL YOUR DINNER
    "So what, I want cake."


    So the character would be the dialogue in the quotes while the subconscious would be those in all caps. I want to know how I would write that into my book, what tags i would used. I dont want to say, 'said my subconscious ' or anything like that.
     
  8. Aaron Smith
    Online

    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    401
    If what he actually says/thinks is in quotes, you don't need to format the text any differently.
     
  9. SadStories
    Offline

    SadStories Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    65
    Yeah, I don't think there is any established way of doing this. I do agree it wouldn't be good with too much italics though, and it also might be confusing if your main character is having long conversation that way. I mean dialogue is written with quotes to avoid confusion in the first place. So I would probably just treat the subconsciousness as a second person.

    Using caps instead of quotation marks might work too, yeah.

    Another thing you could do is simply have your first-person character summarizing what the subconsciousness says. For example, "I wanted to have apples for breakfast, but my subconsciousness kept telling me they would be bad for my stomach. I argued there was no reason to believe my stomach pains had anything to do with acidic food. My subconsciousness did not relent though. He told me how, in his years as a doctor in Switzerland, he had cured countless patients with my problems by refusing them apples. I pointed out that that I had never been in Switzerland, so there was no way he could have cured anyone "during his years" in Switzerland. Fortunately my schizophrenia medicine started working then, and that shut him up good."
     
    IHaveNoName and BayView like this.
  10. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    This is fine but ditch the caps:
    The reader will know from the setting and rest of the story that he is alone. But you can add things like him noticing he is being watched, whatever it takes to make it clear no one else is in the conversation.

    And with a quote that goes more than one paragraph you leave it open at the end of the sentence until the discussion ends. Like this:

    "I do not want to eat my broccoli.
    "Broccoli is good for you, remember Mother says—
    "Maybe if I just had the cake instead.
    "You'll spoil your dinner.
    "So what, I want cake!" I opened the refrigerator.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  11. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Technically there is, but writers of course take liberties.

    Using either caps or italics is well away from the grammar conventions one would use here. If you get too unconventional, you confuse the reader.

    Too much telling and not enough showing and in addition, the guy is unaware he is talking to himself from what I read in the OP. So revealing the situation in the form of exposition (telling the reader) would be contradictory to the character.

    That doesn't mean one couldn't have the character telling us he killed the guy in his head. :p
     
  12. Justin Phillips
    Offline

    Justin Phillips Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2016
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    144

    I would prefer it like this:

    "I do not want to eat my broccoli."
    -Broccoli is good for you, remember mother says so.
    "... Maybe if I just eat the cake instead..."
    -You'll spoil your dinner.
    "So what? I want cake."
    -I'll tell mother.
     
    BayView and Indarican like this.
  13. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I think that works and it looks good, especially the indents. But if you use italics for inner monologue elsewhere in the piece it can look like the person talking back isn't talking aloud.
     
  14. SadStories
    Offline

    SadStories Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    65
    Certainly there are no given conventions for how you make a character talk to themselves. There are "technically" rules for how two characters talk, for example, but we haven't even decided in what way the subconsciousness is a separate character.

    I was agreeing italics was a bad idea and suggesting quotes, precisely because you shouldn't confuse the reader. I thought she might have some reason not to want to use quotes though, because of the last paragraph in this post.

    In that case I thought it was less confusing to use caps than italics.

    Noooo, Indarican clearly says, "He knows that he talks to himself" in the first post. As for "show, don't tell", I've never any idea what people mean by that. Hemingway, who was a specifically minimalist writer, preferred to focus on sensory details and let readers figure out all the deeper stuff, so I understand why he would be saying it. I don't know why anyone would want to sound like Hemingway in 2016 though. Personally I don't even like Hemingway that much. On the other hand I love Jonathan Franzen who is normally just summarizing and summarizing and summarizing, and is still famous for great prose.
     
  15. Justin Phillips
    Offline

    Justin Phillips Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2016
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    144
    Is he talking aloud to himself? I just thought it was inner monologue from the first post.
     
    BayView likes this.
  16. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    That's not true, of course there is. It's not like no one has ever written such a scene.

    At this point in time, caps like that look amateurish. The convention may change with the next generation of writers, but that remains to be seen.

    OK, I got that wrong.

    Let's consider a different tack. You say you don't know what show don't tell means and I take that to mean you don't like the constant repetition of the phrase. I agree.

    Look at your suggestion to use exposition (telling) side by side with the choice to use showing.

    Exposition (ignoring your use of quotations here for narration):

    "I wanted to have apples for breakfast, but my subconsciousness kept telling me they would be bad for my stomach. I argued there was no reason to believe my stomach pains had anything to do with acidic food. My subconsciousness did not relent though. He told me how, in his years as a doctor in Switzerland, he had cured countless patients with my problems by refusing them apples. I pointed out that that I had never been in Switzerland, so there was no way he could have cured anyone "during his years" in Switzerland. Fortunately my schizophrenia medicine started working then, and that shut him up good."
    Vs showing:

    "I do not want to eat my broccoli.
    "Broccoli is good for you, remember Mother says—
    "Maybe if I just had the cake instead.
    "You'll spoil your dinner.
    "So what, I want cake!" I opened the refrigerator.
    One is dynamic and one is boring. Showing is not a fixed rule. It's a means of making your writing stronger, drawing the reader into the scene instead of telling them a story.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    From the OP, "he begins to talk to himself, as in have full blown conversations with himself."
     
  18. SadStories
    Offline

    SadStories Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    65
    For some reason you have it out for me. I can tell because you're very offensive, twisting logic just to disagree, etc.

    Honestly I feel like you should be apologizing, but I'll give the things you're saying serious replies.

    If you did a huge study of all stories containing characters talking to themselves, you would probably find that some techniques are used more often than others. This is certainly not the kind of conventions we were talking about though.

    I never said they should do it. I said it might work.

    I don't think it would look nearly as messy as italics, so if you don't want to use quotation marks because you don't want the subconsciousness to count as its own separate character, using caps instead might be a way to do it.

    I think it would also underline how imposing voices in your head might be.

    I simply don't agree the comparison makes any sense. My example, which was supposed to be a cute joke, is an example of snarky narration. Your example is straightforward dialogue. Would you think The Catcher in the Rye, which consists entirely of snarky narration, would had been a better book, more dynamic, if there was more dialogue?

    Imo the two examples being compared are apples and oranges.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,966
    Likes Received:
    5,490
    If he's saying both sides of the conversation out loud, then it would just be formatted as dialogue, IMO:

    James studied his plate and argued vehemently with himself. "I do not want to eat my broccoli."
    "Broccoli is good for you, remember Mother says."
    "Maybe if I just had the cake instead."
    "You'll spoil your dinner."
    He got up and headed for the cakestand. "So what, I want cake."
    "Stop that!" was the futile protest as he cut a slice.
    "Oh, shut up," he told himself. He turned up the radio and sat down with his plate.
     
    Indarican and GingerCoffee like this.
  20. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I don't have it out for you.
     
    SadStories likes this.
  21. SadStories
    Offline

    SadStories Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    65
    Lol, maybe not. Sorry for accusing you. I get a bit weird when I worry people are being unfair to me.
     
  22. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46
    @ChickenFreak no he is only saying his part outloud.
    @Justin Phillips i like the idea of the hypen and indent, i could give that a try. I hope it wont confuse readers.
    @GingerCoffee thanks for the tip about open quotes, i didnt know :)
    @SadStories i definetly want to keep it more of a dialogue instead of just narrating what his subconscious said. But thanks for the suggestion
     
  23. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,627
    Likes Received:
    5,114
    I liked @Justin Phillips's approach. And I'd use italics for it, too.

    I do think that this is the sort of effect, italics or no, that will probably be a bit grating to read in big swaths. So if you're finding the italics too much, I'm wondering if there's just too much of the inner dialogue going on? (Pure conjecture, of course.)

    ETA: I find the open quotations idea really jarring. I think the point here is that it's dialogue, as in two speakers. Just because the two speakers are inside the same person doesn't mean they shouldn't each get distinct quotation marks.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    If one side is out loud and the other just thoughts, then @Justin Phillips' version looks best. If I read that I would think the character was talking aloud while a voice in his head was answering.

    You might need to make it clear he heard that voice in his head by other setup in the story in order to make it truly another personality rather than just someone thinking about two different positions. For example: 'yes I should no I shouldn't' would be one person thinking, not one person with a voice in their head. 'Yes I should no you shouldn't' might be a voice but not always. And 'yes you should', 'shut up, no I shouldn't' would more clearly be a voice in one's head.
     
  25. Elven Candy
    Offline

    Elven Candy Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    171
    If you use the hyphen and indent, I don't think you should italicize. It's just too busy. However, I think this works fine if you give it the right context:

    "I do not want to eat my broccoli"
    Broccoli is good for you, remember Mother says.
    "Maybe if I just had the cake instead"
    You'll spoil your dinner.
    "So what, I want cake."

    His subconscious is being treated like a second person talking to him, but without quotes. I'd need to read a larger passage than this to know for sure if it's confusing, but if done well I don't think it would be.
     

Share This Page