1. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Monologues/speeches

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jo3bo, May 24, 2011.

    Hi, recently I began a novel entirely in monologue/speech format. Without explaining any of the plot, I was wondering if anyone had some broad, general tips for holding the readers attention on a project like this? Any suggestions or advice is welcome :)
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Keep it interesting. Just because it's a monologue doesn't mean it can be a bland infodump; still give the reader a sense of conflict, reason to keep reading etc. Try reading Alice Walker's books, "Catcher in the Rye," etc, those are very well-done first person and can show you how monologues can be done well.
     
  3. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Ok thanks, I'll be sure to check her out :)
     
  4. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    I happen to enjoy reading stories in this format. This allows me (as the reader) to get inside the character's mind and know what he is thinking at all times. Mallory's advice is very useful, though I am not familiar with the book she suggested. Try doing a bit of research and like Mallory said, keep the story interesting.

    Good luck writing! :)
     
  5. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I'm confused. Are you just talking about first person POV with a lot of narrative (voicing thoughts through narrative I mean)? Or what? Am I missing something?

    EDIT: As in first person POV with a single POV character of whom you are incessantly berated by their opinions throughout the entire novel? Cause that's how Monologue/Speech Format (the words) sounds to me if I just make something up to go with it?
     
  6. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Sorry, I may not have been very clear. What I mean by monologue/speech, in the context of my novel, is a series of speeches (each one a chapter) spoken by one character, and so one point of view only.
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    So it's just first person POV speeches? A whole book of it? Does he do anything else or it's entirely speeches? There are other books like this?
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    So, like actual dialog for entire chapters from a character telling their story, literally, via their vocal chords, for entire chapters at a time, for an entire novel?

    Hrm, not sure I've seen that done. Though Richard Bausch has been successful with two short stories of only dialog (1-900 and Voices From Another Room if I recall their names), so I suppose it's possible.

    I don't think you need to explain the plot, btw, as the plot of such a novel would simply be 'character stands in position and speaks' heh (teasing, teasing!).
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can't see anyone wanting to read a novel with no narrative, no action whatsoever...

    all-dialog might work for a short short story, but would be deadly for a whole novel...

    what would be the point?... if we can only read what characters are saying, then the whole book would be all 'telling' and no 'showing' whatsoever... no scenes to pull the reader into, nothing at all going on, but talk, talk, talking... that would be like tying your readers in a chair and making them listen to your characters drone on for hours and hours, doing nothing but standing there...
     
  10. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    It may be the way that you say it is, but that is not what the OP said. They said that each speech was a chapter, not that each chapter was a speech.

    I wrote a piece not long ago with a priest character who had to write sermons. I put some of his relevant sermons into it occasionally to show the way his mind was going (since I write psychological sort of stuff).
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    No, I take that to mean that the only element of the work is the MC speaking. Frankly, I'm skeptical of this working too well because it seems to me as if, instead of drawing the reader into the story, it pushes him/her away. Instead of a narrative, it's several speeches about the narrative. It sounds to me like the complete opposite of "show, don't tell".

    It would be interesting to see how the writer overcomes this.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see a problem with this if you do it well. Look at good epistolary novels, for example. All they are is a series of letter between characters. A series of speeches by characters follows a similar general approach.

    Or look at Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Great book, and the whole thing could be read as one long speech by the narrator (he's supposed to be telling his story to the audience, and does in fact address the reader directly on many occasions in the telling of it).

    No reason you couldn't do what you propose here with speeches. The trick is to do it well, of course.
     
  13. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    Without reading anyone else's comments, the first thing that came to my mind was to imagine this as a one-person play, and everything you are writing is coming out of the mouth of an actor speaking to the audience. Try to put a lot of character into what he is saying, so that we as the reader get to see what kind of person we are listening to.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think this is the same as a simple first-person narrative. Mallory made that assumption early in the thread and the OP corrected her. So I'm assuming it's more limited than that - literally, a series of speeches. Lolita can be read as a single long speech, and one might imagine it that way, but it isn't presented as such. Ditto with Catcher in the Rye and many others.

    In my current project, I have a scene in which the MC is explaining the events surrounding a critical point in his recent past to two people whose trust he is trying to gain. I started writing it as a long monologue but quickly realized it wouldn't work. So, instead, I did it as 3rd person narrative - a flashback, if you will, but one immediately tied to the plot. I've also seen a monologue done as 1st person narrative, with an introduction to the chapter that made it clear who the narrator was (by Michener in Tales of the South Pacific). But that was for one chapter, not every chapter, and again, it was done in a way that got rid of the quotation marks that put a little more distance between the speaker and the reader.
     
  15. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Thanks everyone for the comments; I'll try and clarify, as best I can, exactly what I'm attempting to avoid further confusion. The best pre-existing book I can think of is the screwtape letters. Where C.S. Lewis writes a series of letters, as a devil, to his nephew and you only see his letters, not the replies. Mine is something similar to this with speeches in place of the letters. The aim of the novel is to really get into the mind of this speeker through his speech. It is intended, and has been planned, as a novel; although admittedly a short one. I hope this helps a little.
     
  16. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Except, oddly, a series of speeches (or even monologues) is hugely distancing, making the reader undoubtedly take a step back and de-connecting with the speaker.

    Though it's still not explained if these are speeches the speaker has written for the book, or for which rhetorical situation, speeches are typically crafted with an agenda and purpose in mind, and aren't a very good way to connect with the speaker on a real, genuine level (in fact, they're a good way to connect with a speaker on a false, fake level, if the speaker is any good).

    This reminds me of the classes that require a prospectus before starting a research, writing or art project, because most of the time if the writer/creator can't clearly explain what they're doing, and everyone just seems confused, it's not because the idea is great, nor that it isn't, but simply that the writer isn't ready to undertake such a project. And I'm all for art being an exploration that can go in new and interesting directions... but if you don't have a plan to start, you're exploration won't.

    Mostly through two pages, and I still don't fully understand the project you're asking for general tips and advice for. I mean, brevity is great and all, but...
     
  17. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Thanks popsicle, I agree with everything you're saying. I didn't want to explain anything as to the plot because the entire novel, as you picked up on, is a deception of the reader, by the speaker. That is why I thought speeches were a subtle way of deceiving the reader through tone and language. I entirely agree with you when you talked of the necessity of skill at writing when undertaking such a project. This is not to say that I think I am capable, just that I have been noticing the need for experience as I've been writing it.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It might also help if you told us why you think this would be an effective vehicle for your story, more than, say, a typical 1st person narrative.
     
  19. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    My interpretation is something similar to this, for example:

    A prominent political member has a speech. Things happen. He has another speech in reaction to what has happened. You see the events of the story through the words of the speaker and it is up to you how to interpret what the speaker is saying and if you believe what is being said.

    The action comes from the reporting provided by the speaker through speeches. Intriguing, but I bet it would be hard to pull off. Not really a novel as I don't see how there could be enough speeches to make it that long, but certainly capable of creating a quality work of writing. Potentially the speeches could come from more than just the one person, but I believe the OP was working with just one speaker.
     
  20. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    I think the format is relevant, as I touched upon in my last post, because it creates an environment in which you are basing everything you know on what the speaker tells you. What it allows for, in my opinion at least, is for the reader to be deceived in a very subtle way. There will be a significant twist in the story but one that is not at all obvious. It will have to be realised by the person reading it, or perhaps not as the case may be. Whereas in a first person narrative the same effect could be achieved, due to the limited action in the novel (it is more a study of people and behavior) I thought a series of speeches might be more appropriate. Speeches, as Popsicle said, often have a set agenda, and that certainly suits my purpose as far as the plot goes.
     
  21. jo3bo
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    jo3bo Member

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    Yes caldenfor, that is the kind of piece I would hope to write. Any external events should be worked out from the response in the subsequent speech.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the speaker has to be somewhere, though... and speaking to someone... or is the reader supposed to envision some person floating in empty space, speaking to himself, for 200+ pages and having no scenes to picture, no action taking place at all?

    doesn't seem like anything anyone would want to bother reading, much less pay good money for, imo...
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If that is necessary, the speaker could relay that information in the speech itself, just like in an epistolary novel the letter-writer supplies those details so that you do not envision a person writing a letter in a void somewhere.
     
  24. jo3bo
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    I didn't say no action at all, by limited action I meant all information as to setting conveyed through the speeches as steerpike said.
     
  25. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but action conveyed through speeches is not really perceived by the reader as action at all. As I said in an earlier post, it seems to me the ultimate case of telling rather than showing. I understand what you said about why you chose this particular format - wanting to put the reader in the place of the deceived public (so to speak). My concern would be that you may unwittingly put the reader in the place of the apathetic public, instead. After all, there's a reason people spend so little time listening to politicians. :D
     

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