1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Syncing narrative voice with dialogue (1st person)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Aug 21, 2015.

    Can anyone offer any advice for maintaining a consistency between my narrative voice and my MC's dialogue, baring in mind I'm referring to a first-person narrative?

    When I'm writing his dialogue I feel perfectly comfortable with 'voice', but the narrative in between somehow doesn't sound like the same person. It goes from 'layman / average Joe' during dialogue, to someone who speaks far more eloquently and uses words he wouldn't, during narrative.

    The problem seems to stem from conditioning. As I've learned to write over the years, I've developed my vocabulary and a natural tendency to vary my words - or to put it another way, I've developed a style of writing that is 'correct' and 'proper'... academically so.

    I want my narrative to sound simple and have the same tone as my MC's dialogue voice, without it coming across as having been written by someone who simply can't write.

    I sometimes write a sentence of narrative, following dialogue, and feel quite proud of its structure and word usage, until I suddenly realise my character doesn't speak like that and I have to change it for something far more simple.

    Example:

    A sudden surge of pity hit me when I looked across at him in the passenger seat. He was very much awake and watching the fields and hedgerows pass by his window. He seemed reluctant to turn his head inwards, for fear of catching my eye and prompting conversation. His wife's death had hit him hard and he'd coped the only way he knew how, which was to bury his head in drugs and self-pity.

    Became:

    A sudden surge of pity hit me when I looked across at him in the passenger seat. He was awake and watching the fields and hedgerows pass by his window, refusing to turn his head inwards in case he caught my eye and got us talking. His wife's death had hit him hard and he'd coped the only way he knew how, which was to bury his head in drugs and self-pity.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This has been an issue for me in first person, depending on who my character is. Sometimes, I'll switch the story to third person, but usually not. I have a different "voice" in my head when I'm writing dialogue versus narrative (for lack of a better word), and in my most recent first-person work, where the MC is a teenager, I had to train myself over a series of edits to pretend that the whole thing was dialogue, that my narrator was speaking the entire work. It took some time, but it allowed me ultimately to have the same voice in my head for the whole narrative that I usually had only when I typed quotation marks for dialogue.

    That's too vague to really be a 'how to do it' answer, but that's the process I underwent in addressing the same issue.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it makes perfect sense. But as you say, very tricky to pull off, I think.
     
  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing has just occurred to me.

    My characters swear a lot, not for effect, but because... well because they do. However, it suddenly occurred to me just now that I never ever swear during the narrative.

    I added a natural-sounding cuss into a passage of narrative and it was like I'd glued it to the dialogue!

    One small step, and not the end of my problems with this, I'm sure, but it certainly helped.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep, that will definitely help things. I had to incorporate the occasional swear word and teenage slang into my narrative to get the same feel of the character. Sounds like you're on the right track!
     
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  6. musicgirl87
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    I'm having trouble with this too, only worse because my story is in 3rd person limited (past tense). It feels so weird to voice narrative thoughts in 3rd past person about dialogue or action that "is happening" at "present". For me it makes it extra harder to write in the voice of the character during the narrative bits . This sort of thing I hardly notice when reading other's work, it works, but as I write it... it feels jarring.

    It seems there's no magic trick, we have to learn by hard work, darn it!

    P.S.: I re-read the whole thread. I'm not sure I should have posted anything since my problem doesn't seem to be quite the same and I don't have useful to say either. Sorry
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  7. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    This is pretty much what I was going to say. Esentially, when you are writing in first, you are the MC; you need to put yourself in to their mind frame. Again, think of the whole thing as dialogue; imagine your character is verbally telling this story to somebody, rather than writing it down. I'd expect that may help.
     
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