1. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20

    writing mindlinked characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ettina, May 13, 2012.

    OK, I've got a group of characters who, before birth, were possessed by magic-eating spirits. Each kid has essentially mentally fused, so it's hard to say whether they're more the child or the spirit being. I've written some stuff from the perspectives of several kids like this, and it only gets tricky on the rare occasions that they separate briefly.

    But now I'm working on a story from the first person perspective(s) of a set of twins who were possessed by a single spirit, which only split into two when it was forced to do so by the children being born (and therefore not always side by side). Even after that, they have a strong mental link, to the point where they aren't entirely certain if they're one person or two. Very often they will simultaneously think the exact same thought, and they can feel each other's feelings and see through each other's eyes and such. And they're both the perspective character, together. (Incidentally, they're actually same-sex fraternal twins, simply because there aren't enough of those in fiction.)

    In the intro bit I've written, I've narrated everything with 'we', but when I have to refer to one twin specifically (eg, saying which one did a particular action) how do I make the unique perspective clear? If I just use the twin's name it sounds like third person, but I could see it getting very confusing if two different characters were both called 'I'. Should I have 'I (Tom)' and 'I (Joe)' or would the parentheses get annoying? Or can I get away with them using third person to refer to one twin specifically?
     
  2. thecoopertempleclause
    Offline

    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2012
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Cornwall, UK
    Confusing yes, but it sounds like a grand idea. Nothing more unsettling than freaky child twins (see anime Black Lagoon if you don't believe that). Personally I would have gone with mixed gender twins, since then you get an aesthetic difference if not a character difference (and it would up the creepiness for a boy and a girl to be the same mind, especially if they still try to look identical).

    As for your problem in narrative reference, can you not use 'I' for thoughts, then differentiate between Tom and Joe for actions and dialogue? From what you've said, the spirit is essentially using the children as a tool, so it is neither Tom nor Joe really who is our MC, but their puppetmaster. I know it's something of a rule-breaker, but you have unique circumstances.

    I'll try an example:
    -------------
    I walked into the study, my eyes taking a while to adjust to the darkness before I made out the cowering shape of a woman in the corner. She glanced up at one part of me, then the other, terror inscribed on her face.

    "Don't be afraid," Tom said.

    "I'm only here to hurt you," Joe said.

    I never cared much for dishonesty or false hope. Both she and I knew she would never see another morning. Tom walked over to her while Joe watched from the centre of the room. She barely looked up at me as Tom raised the knife, a look of emotional muteness on his face.
    --------------

    You might think that works, you might think it too disorientating. It might just be a trial and error thing, but pick a rule and stick to it. See what works for you, that's just my first inclination as to how to approach the issue.
     
  3. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Treat all mindlinked conversations as simply that: conversations. Format it as dialogue, and clarify with context.
     
  4. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    Cogito - it's not mere conversations. Their link goes much deeper than that. I want to capture the sense that they're not entirely separate people, and just having conversations (whether mental or overt) doesn't give that sense.

    thecoopertempleclause - interesting thoughts, but I think your style of writing makes them too much one person. I really want a thin line, where even the reader isn't quite certain if they're one or two. What would you think of writing the same style except with 'we' in place of 'I'? Only leaving I/me when it's clear from context that the sentence applies to only one twin?

    You know, like:

    ---------------------------------------
    We walked into the study, our eyes taking a while to adjust to the darkness before I made out the cowering shape of a woman in the corner. She glanced up at one part of me, then the other, terror inscribed on her face.

    "Don't be afraid," Tom said.

    "I'm only here to hurt you," Joe said.

    We never cared much for dishonesty or false hope. Both us and she knew she would never see another morning. Tom walked over to her while Joe watched from the centre of the room. She barely looked up at me as Tom raised the knife, a look of emotional muteness on his face.

    -----------------------------------

    Do you think that works?
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Perhaps, if you can keep your pronouns straight (not to mention object vs. subject pronouns). It sounds as though the I/We distinction would be a bit blurred for this collective mind.

    My point was in regards to any explicit, literal conversations among the parts of the joined mind. If it is mind-to-mind communication, it should be formatted the same as ordinary conversation.

    I think some of your greater challenges will arise from the character having several simultaneous points of view. Our brain is configured to view the same scene from two points approximately 3-4 inches apart, but still as a single scene. There are animals who track two scenes, but lack the finer distance perception that comes from stereoscopic vision. As far as we know, there are no animals who can switch between stereoscopic and dual scene vision, and of course nothing on this world has multiple stereoscopic vision.

    Even hearing gets complicated with multiple sources. Yes, there are N brains doing the processing, but there is still the challenge of integrating sensory input from multiple, separated sources.

    An interesting twist would be how disorienting it will be if the link is somehow disrupted for some period. It would be a bit like a sudden deafness in one ear, or losing the sight from one eye.
     
  6. ArnaudB
    Offline

    ArnaudB Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2012
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    10
    I've considered writing a story under with the same context. Two in fact, one was a male/Female duo of twin (for hilarity), while the other was someone able to copy himself from multiple dimensions.

    Third person view is very much recommended. Point being that the duo can see from multiple places and it's either confusing or quickly annoying to say every-time just who is looking somewhere.
    For simplicity sake, I had the idea of giving each of the duo a name which make another name when added together. Maybe you can use it sin TomJoe or JoeTom don't give quite the rhythmic. Also "Both of us" feel kinda absurd since they both think the same thing. In first person I'd agree with 'thecoopert...' should be spoken in singular "I"... or just don't use pronoun which can work.

    I'd remove "Joe watched from the center of the room" too, he isn't doing anything and the fact he is looking doesn't really say anything since he's also Tom... (Not sure I'm clear there)
    "a look of emotional muteness on his face." Huh... how is being mute an emotion?

    Otherwise the thing that bother me here is how Joe is absolutely unneeded here. Since Joe sees/Feel/Etc... everything that Tom feel, I'd think he would either make sure no one is coming or he would move along Tom to take the girl. ->Point being, they're shared though in two bodies. They gotta use the advantages or there isn't any point in having two bodies in the first place. (story-wise)
     
  7. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    Well, that scene is just an example scene. It's completely out of character for the boys, too. (Not that they wouldn't murder someone in cold blood, but they'd act differently in the process.) So the problems with that scene aren't a big deal.

    I've tried writing in third person, but this story really feels like it needs to be in first person. It's just not personal enough - this story will have lengthy internal monologues. (Basically, their telepathic mentor suddenly disappears and they're freaking out about it.)
     
  8. The Tourist
    Offline

    The Tourist Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,089
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Wisconsin.
    Well, there are real-deal groups like that in society that you might look to for inspiration.

    For example, families with a tight clannish organization have a very real sense of a 'group mind.' Yikes, you should see my cousins. One eats broccoli, the other gets gas. They do not think, act or marry unless there a very real consensus.

    As for this sytem breaking down leading to dysfunctionality, consider Amish that have left the family or have been shunned.
     
  9. thecoopertempleclause
    Offline

    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2012
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Cornwall, UK
    Don't know why, you give me mindlinked twins, I make them cold-blooded killers. Must be a thing. I blame Black Lagoon and The Shining. Not good PR for twins.

    I'm not sure the 'we' part worked there. What I was going for is that the first-person entity is one being, thus a singular, but as Cogito said, it uses both of the twins for sensory input and action, and they are separate beings, thus I separated them into the third person, which seemed quite creepy to me. If the two twins are ever separated, but still under control, you could go for:

    "I heard a sound through Tom.../I watched through Joe's eyes and saw...," and so forth.

    Personally I would find that system quite easy to keep track of, and readers would adjust to an obscure narrative style quite quickly as long as it's consistent.

    Just try experimenting with a few different styles.

    Oh, and also, ArnaudB, firstly, the scene was an example I made up as to how to describe the actions of two different characters controlled by a singular entity, it was never supposed to be a working scene. And secondly,
    - Re-read the phrase please, it never says that mute is an emotion. One of the many definitions of muteness is linked to the muffling or deadening of sound, so to apply it to the emotional means that his face was exhibiting no emotion. I used the word 'mute' because it conveyed the idea of a remorseless killer far better than simply saying, "the boy stabbed him, his face was blank." I also liked the fact that it conjured up the concept of an actor in a dumb show, which is essentially what the twins are.
     
  10. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    OK, I was writing some scenes about these kids, and sort of naturally fell into being inconsistent about I vs we depending on how they feel - their sense of individuality shifts moment-to-moment depending on the context. Is this clear enough, or is the shift jarring? (By the way, the mention of constructed personas refers to them faking separate personalities to avoid seeming too strange, which they explained in the intro bit.)

    -------------------------------------------------------

    We walked in the front door, Joe tossing the stick aside as we did. Our mother looked up from the laptop. "Hi, boys."
    "Hi, Mom." I answered in both voices. At home, I could relax, and that meant we'd often talk in unison. Or pick a voice at random, instead of asking which words fit which constructed persona best. Our parents only occasionally saw our 'distinct personalities' act.
    Mom nodded, our odd ways no surprise to her. "There's leftover chicken in the fridge, if you're hungry." She turned back to her work.
    Joe was, so he dug it out while Tom looked over her shoulder. "What are you working on?"
    "Devising a new scale for self esteem, that doesn't have any questions you could answer on a purely factual basis." She replied. "I gave that test, along with a measure of implicit self esteem, to a bunch of undergraduate students. Now, I'm at the most boring part, entering the data into SPSS so I can start analyzing it."
    We smiled. Mom's research was usually pretty interesting. With a psychologist mother and biologist father, both passionate researchers, I'd grown up with science. I'd been taught about cell anatomy when I was just learning to read.
     
  11. MVP
    Offline

    MVP Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    6
    It would be beneficial to you to read Stephen King's Dreamcatcher and pay grave attention to Mr. Gray and Jonesy. This book is very long, but it will put you on the reader's end of something similar to what you are trying to do with these characters.
     
  12. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    I find this TOO confusing. I have no idea who's talking to who, and you switch narrative POV. For example, you start in first-person, "we walked in the front door" and then you switch "Hoe was, so he dug it out while Tom looked over her shoulder" -- You would need to identify, which twin is speaking at the beginning of the paragraph - Joe or Tom? - and then keep it in first-person.

    I know you may want to make them seem inextricably linked by mixing up the pronouns, but for the reader, in my opinion, it becomes very confusing. I would recommend trying to find a different way to link them within the text. For example, why not just make them finish each others sentences or thoughts? Or why don't they only talk using the "we" pronoun, like they never distinguish themselves? And if they are so linked together, wouldn't they both be hungry? This is just a minor question and I don't know all the practicals.

    I would strongly urge you against changing pronouns. It's just too confusing.
     
  13. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    In a story I've written, my main character discovers a way to communicate with his unconscious and he literally has conversations with himself. Because the unconscious is just that, information we aren't consciously aware of, it makes sense that his conscious self is talking to his unconscious self with genuine curiosity, but I use "I" when the main character is talking and "We or Us" when the unconscious is replying or talking. However you choose to do it, just keep it consistent so the reader doesn't get confused.
     
  14. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    No, because they have two separate bodies.

    I'll need to think it over. I really liked the alternating we/I, but if it's too confusing to read... or is it the switching between first and third person? If so, how should I say which twin does what? (I'm not going to just pick one twin to be the perspective, that kind of defeats what I'm trying to do.)

    Just using 'we' doesn't work for describing the action, because although they may be thinking the same thoughts, physically it's going to be Joe chasing while Tom sets up an ambush (for example). And since they aren't physically identical, the mental image of the scene is different depending on who is doing what (Joe is blond, Tom is brown-haired, and Tom wears glasses while Joe doesn't). In terms of finishing each other's sentences/thoughts, the problem is that they only do this in limited settings, because they're trying to blend in. In a previous school they were bullied because they acted like one person, and because bullies thought it was neat to punch one and watch the other wince (they sort of feel an 'echo' of each other's physical sensations, though unlike emotions they can actually tell who is feeling what).

    Would having 'I (Joe)' or 'I (Tom)' work when I need to clarify which twin does which action?
     
  15. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Cumbersome. Especially with joint operations. Consider the scenario: We aimed and fired, using Tom's eyes and Joe's finger on the trigger.
     
  16. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    I think unless you're going to choose a particular twin's POV, writing in first-person should be out. By writing in third-person would allow an external narrative voice that can do things like "Joe grabbed the chicken from the fridge while Tom looked over their mother's shoulder." Also, it would solve the solution between using "I/We" - your third-person would never use those pronouns.

    This may be a case of over complicating the matter.
     
  17. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    I've tried writing this in third person. The only way I can pull it off is to make someone else the perspective character (first or third person), and the only other person present for some of the major plot events will be spending a lot of time with his mind badly scrambled by their powers, so most of the scenes make no sense whatsoever from his perspective. (On the level of him not being able to figure out why he feels wet when he's just peed his pants.) I think the problem is the other psychic abilities these kids have - it just feels really weird to show telepathy in third person.

    Besides, if I can pull it off, this will be a totally unique perspective.
     
  18. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think that because the mindlinked perspective is so unique, it begs to be written in first person. Those who know me, know I rarely recommend first person over third, but in this case I do believe it has a strong advantage.

    The problem is that the mindlinked state is so foreign to our experience that it will be a challenge to convey it to the reader effectively. Also, our language was never meant to communicate such a unique view of the world.

    All communication is based on shared experiences, and this is a phenomenon well outside that of any of you humans.
     
  19. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    20
    Believe it or not, I just found a news report about some girls who may come close to the experience of my twins - Tatiana and Krista Hogan, conjoined twins who share part of a brain. Unfortunately, they're still young, so they haven't gone into great detail about their experience of the world.
     
  20. Akyra
    Offline

    Akyra New Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's an interesting problem you have here. The thing is, if you write in first person and then have a sentence such as :
    The problem is that using the name of both twins while writing in third perspective makes it look like there is a third character involved. It's not clear to the reader that it's the joint personality speaking, it just feels like you suddenly switched to third perspective or that there is a third person involved.
    This really is a bit of a challenge. The only thing I can think of would be to use one twin's point of view for each scene, a little like George Martin does (he even gives his chapter the name of the character whose POV he's showing). That would still allow for creepy/awkward mindlinking. For instance, you could have one twin have a thought and show the other twin acting on that thought, without specifically saying that there has been any dialogue between them. Like this :

    JOE

    "Hi, mom", I said as we entered the kitchen. I wondered what she had been baking - it certainly smelt good.
    Tom walked to the oven to peer inside. "Apple pie", he announced, then straightened up and glanced through the window, shifting restlessly.
    "We're going to the garden", I told mom. "Tom wants to take a walk before dinner."
    "All right boys, don't be late."


    As you can see, here we're seeing the scene from one twin's perspective, but we clearly have each twin reacting to the other twin's thoughts. It's just an example, obviously.
     

Share This Page