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  1. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Disjointed speech

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Prophetsnake, Oct 21, 2011.

    I have two passages in a sci-fi novel I'm working on where the protaganist hears a voice. The mechanics aren't important, but the medium is unfamiliar to the hero, The long and short is he needs to have a conversation with this character which is difficult and frustrating for him. The way I have done it is with a series of two word sentences that reads a little like "Who's on first?" A couple of my readers hated it, finding it very frustrating to read and felt it was the worst part of the book. One other thought it was brilliant and understood exactly what I was trying to do.
    Any opinions on how to handle something like this? I've already pared it down as much as I could so as not to belabor the point.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    can't offer advice without seeing at least a sample of what you're asking about...
     
  3. Prophetsnake
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    Hehe yes, of course.. I better give a bit of an explanation as to what led up to this. James, the protagonist, has been hearing vague things ( not imagined) in his dreams but the "voice" in this piece and he have no real common language. James has some inherited ability to understand this strange language and this is sort of "first contact" where the first tentative communications take place. It's understood that this is not actually verbal, so the words are only supposed to represent the ideas floating around. A couple of my readers like it, most hate it.

    James lives. Survivor lives.”
    “Survivor lives?”
    “Yes. Survivor lives here.”
    “Where?”
    “Survivor lives life.”
    Well, it was cryptic, but it it was an improvement on the 'simple' conversation.
    “Survivor lives life.”
    “Yes.”
    “Live one is a germ?”
    “Yes.”
    “I'm talking to a germ? Pat will lock me up when I tell him. I may lock myself up!”
    “No. Not germ.”
    “Not germ? You said you are a germ.”
    “Yes, germ. Germ and.”
    “Not just a germ?”
    “Not just a germ.”
    “You are a germ but not just a germ.”
    “Simple.”
    “You germ and more.”
    “Yes.”
    “Many germs?”
    “Yes. Farm tube.”
    “You farm tube?”
    “Germs farm tube.”
    It was starting to make a little sense. He supposed the germ he was talking to could be farming Bob's intestine.
    “James tube.”
    “I would rather you stayed out of my tube, thanks.
    “Simple word.”
    “No germ James tube.”
    “No germ now.”
    “Good, thank you.”
    “Welcome.”
    “Very polite for a germ.”
    “James word.”
    “What word.”
    “Special. James word.”
    “Special?”
    “James special.”
    “Oh.”
    “Yes. James special. James know.”
    “James know.”
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is incredibly confusing... aside from the fact that unrelieved long stretches of unattributed dialog annoy and confuse the heck out of readers, nothing that's being said by whoever/whatever makes any sense whatsoever...
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of it makes quite clear sense to me (and most is probably what the author is aiming for -- James is struggling to understand it, which wouldn't make sense if it were perfectly clear to us). I agree about the unrelieved long stretches of unattributed dialogue, and the occasional missing quotation mark doesn't help.
     
  6. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Ah, the missing quotation marks should be italicized as thought. I've gotten mixed reviews from people who have read the book. It was quite a bit longer so I pared it back to be just long enough to make the point and to propel the story forwards without irritating the reader too much.. One reader said she liked it because she was able to empathize with James. Another hated it and found it a trial, but i believe he felt a need to make sense of it, something the protagonist couldn't do himself.. I might fiddle with it a bit more. I have a notion that if I make it comical, like "Who's on first" it will still maintain verisimilitude, propel the story and be entertaining into the bargain.
     

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