1. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    writing nonverbal thought

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ettina, Mar 1, 2012.

    In my psych class, I recently learnt about a concept called 'inner speech'. This is basically an internal, verbal narrative of whatever you're thinking about. Anyway, not everyone uses inner speech - in particular, people with certain kinds of brain damage don't, such as many people with aphasia.

    My question is: How do I depict, in first person perspective, someone who isn't using inner speech? One of my characters at one point is affected by a spell that disrupts some of his mental abilities, and I'm thinking one effect of that is inability to use inner speech. But the entire story is written in first person, and it'll be really jarring to switch perspective. And he's definitely conscious of the experience, and will remember it later, so I can't just skip over it.

    Could I do it just by focusing my writing on his sensory impressions and other experiences that could be represented entirely nonverbally? (This would accomplish the benefit of making his thought process noticeably different from usual, and therefore signal to the reader that something's wrong with him.) I mean, some people may argue that anytime you're writing first person, you're implying that this is their internal narrative, but couldn't it be seen as a translation, kind of like dialogue written in English when the characters were really speaking Westron?
     
  2. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    As a reader I would be put off if the first person narrator suddenly loses his inner thoughts, therefore forcing me to experience the story through sensory impressions. I think switching to another point of view might be a better alternative.

    That being said, I think you have a great idea and the key would be executing it without sacrificing the flow of your story.
     
  3. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    There is a loop hole. Just because the writer is in first person it does not mean you cannot write what is happening to him. What is the tense of the story (past,present?). If you write it in past tense he can tell the story to the audience of what he has experienced, not what is happening in the present.

    If you are writing in present tense it is going to be a challenge for you not to have the main character speak to the audience using inner speech. Most of his actions he must not be talking to himself and he is focused on what is going on and observing his surroundings. He can move around and talk to other characters to give the audience answers to his location and to what is happening in the story.

    I would be careful with this and evaluate how you are going to write this from structuring it out on paper and also decide if past or present speech is right for you.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it might be too difficult to pull of for the simple reason that, you are writing in words, in 1st pov of a character who all of a sudden - has no words? Aphasia can be total or partial, and you can look at a neurological textbook and choose the exact type of impairment, but if you significantly limit or remove comprehension and verbal thought from the character who is telling the story, the only way you could write about it in a way that readers will understand what's going on, is to change your pov, either to 3rd person limited or omniscient narrator, and keep that condition brief. The reader will want to know how it feels to be in your MC's head, but you need words to describe it for them.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't put the character's thoughts into words, particularly if the character cannot organize them that way. SHOW the character's though conceopts through his or her actions. Support the unusual nature of the character's thought patterns through external exposition, if necessary to the story. For example, he might have a conversation with a therapist or doctor about his condition.

    Sometimes, a little telling can save you a lot of showing something completely outside the readers' experiences.
     
  6. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Depending on the story line you can you use past tense. The narrative can be after the fact. Example: "At the time I found myself unable to think in words. Feeling without being able to express what I felt in my own mind."
     

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