1. James E

    James E New Member

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    First person talking to reader?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by James E, Jan 24, 2019.

    Hi guys and girls, I'm new here, so hello.

    I have an introduction I would like to be in the first person but with the narrator talking directly to the reader. The feel being as though the reader is sat talking to the narrator at a bar, so all dialogue but without any description. The feel being like this:

    "Let me buy you a drink. You won't believe what I am about to tell you, about what I've gone through. Many people would say I was mad, that I wasn't right in the head. But let me tell you," etc.

    Is there a name for this as it would make it easier to research? Obviously it's first person POV, but I'm struggling to make it feel right without description, and to make the narrator become increasingly drunk throughout the introduction.

    Does any famous work spring to mind which I could look at?

    Thanks.
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    It reminds me of the introduction to Huck Finn.

    Not sure what it's called... something about direct address, maybe?

    ETA: Also kind of Catcher in the Rye?
     
  3. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Catcher In The Rye is First Person POV but it HAS description. The description comes from Holden Caulfield.

    If you are planning on just having all dialouge between characters with Quotation Marks only, I can't think of any famous works, can see as a short story, maybe, but would be a hard sell to publishers.

    Why can't you just have the MC talk to the reader, and tell the reader what he thinks and what he sees when he is talking to this person at the bar? It's been done that way for hundreds of years.
     
  4. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    A Clockwork Orange is written in this style. Starts off in a bar, too. The Korova Milkbar, which was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brother, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget.
     
  5. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    I noticed that you said it was only going to be this way in the introduction. Again, the question would be why?
     
  6. James E

    James E New Member

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    Good question. The introduction is basically the narrator discussing making two bad decisions which is the bulk of the story to be then told in flashback. My plan was to then continue the last part of the story with the narrator leaving the bar.
     
  7. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    I think this direct communication is generally called breaking the fourth wall
     
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  8. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    No, because he said the two characters are talking to each other and there is no description. If the narrator broke from the conversation and THEN talked to the reader it would be "the fourth wall". What he wants to do is unusual (the no description part).
     
  9. James E

    James E New Member

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    No sorry I think I've confused everyone. I mean the narrator is talking to the reader, the reader obviously doesn't talk.
     
  10. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Ok, I went back to your original post.

    "Let me buy you a drink. You won't believe what I am about to tell you, about what I've gone through. Many people would say I was mad, that I wasn't right in the head. But let me tell you," etc.

    I see now,

    You wouldn't say to a reader, "let me buy you a drink". That is for character to character.

    So, what you want to do is like in Catcher In The Rye.

    I am going by memory, but it starts something like, "The first thing you probably want to know is what my lousy childhood was like..."

    But again, there is no need to leave out description. I think you are trying to be too "cute". Just use the tools all writers use.

    ETA: There would be no need for quotation marks either as the MC is talking to the reader or unseen/unknown character, and not another character sitting next to him. (I believe Holden Caufield was actually talking to his psychiatrist in the book, but in reality it was the reader).
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  11. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    No confusion - this is breaking the fourth wall. It comes from stage - the three walls of the stage encapsulate the show, the fourth "invisible" wall lies between the show and the audience. Pretending it's not there and talking directly to the audience/reader breaks it; it is a well worn literary path and can be very effective
     
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  12. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    But read his origianl post. That is not what he is doing.
    A good movie reference about breaking the fourth wall is "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Ferris definitely breaks the fourth wall and talks to the viewer at times.
     
  13. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    Yes, I did. I generally do that before replying to a thread.

    "I would like to be in the first person but with the narrator talking directly to the reader. The feel being as though the reader is sat talking to the narrator at a bar"

    I can't honestly envisage how that could be a clearer example?
     
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  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It's pretty much the original storytelling path.
    "Gather 'round children and let me tell you a story. When I was your age, there was a --"
    "Really, Grandpa, breaking the fourth wall? Who do you think you are, Deadpool?"
     
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  15. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    But he means like in Catcher In The Rye, not breaking the fourth wall. All he needs to do is leave out "let me buy you a drink".
     
  16. James E

    James E New Member

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    OK thanks for all the replies. So I basically have to leave out any dialogue that would require a response?

    Am I OK to leave in something like "Am I right?" When it is obvious that it's rhetorical?

    Yes I only used speech marks to highlight the dialogue here, I've no intention to use them in the scene.

    Would it be considered bad form to spell words wrongly/phonetically? Like the narrator uses the word "paralysed," but because he's getting drunk he can't pronounce it, so it comes out as "paralalaysssed." I'm trying to convey a sense that the narrator is getting slowly drunk whilst he's telling the story.

    Sorry, so many questions!
     
  17. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Yep, that's a great way. Do not make the reader a character. In Catcher In The Rye, Holden is telling his story to his psychiatrist but he is essentially telling the story to the reader. He does not say anything that brings the psychiatrist in to the story. Spelling words like a drunk would say them is excellent. We all get it then.
     
  18. James E

    James E New Member

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    Great. Thanks for that. Time for a rewrite!
     
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  19. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    It's your story - write it how you want to. There's a general presumption that "less is more" when it comes to phonetics, but there aren't any hard and fast rules - if there were we'd all be best selling authors.

    Will agents love it? Will it sell a million copies? Nobody knows. Write a great story the way you want to and enjoy the journey (c:
     
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  20. James E

    James E New Member

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    Hahaha thanks! I think I'm a million miles away from anyone paying for this - I guess it's obvious I'm a bit untrained - but with great sites like this, it makes everything much more accessible.
     
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  21. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Yeah, don't get carried away with the phonetics. Remember how Archie Bunker in "All In The Family", while not drunk, would get words mixed up? Like when he once said that a catholic priest "sprinkled incest all over every one" instead of "incense". Keep it simple.
     
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  22. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is it possible to figure out, in your head anyway, who your character is talking to? This doesn't need to be revealed at any time, if you don't want to. It can take any form, really. A letter, a recording, or even a face to face. In other words, you (the narrator-character) can 'react' to what the other person 'says,' or does, if you want. Without quoting the other character at all. You asked me why I killed my mother? Well, it's a long story, but here goes.... or Don't look at me like that! I know what you're thinking. You think I'm losing the plot.

    If you can frame, for yourself, who your narrator is addressing and maybe the location for this 'conversation,' I think that will help. He could be in prison, talking to himself but imagining he's explaining his actions to his sister. He could be writing a letter to somebody. He could be addressing the 'dear reader,' which means they are not going to hear him or meet him, but will be reading this instead ...maybe some time in the future. He could be (or pretend to be) addressing a large audience. Who is he talking to? If you can get this straight in your head, then I think the thing will become easier.

    He can even buy the 'other' person a drink, if he's made it clear the location is a bar, and he's just unburdening himself—to either a stranger or somebody he already knows. He can react to the other person ...oh, don't walk away yet ...I'm not finished. (Which implies that the other person wants to leave for whatever reason, which will be part of the story.) This can be fun to work with, because a notion of what the other person is like will emerge.

    Just focus on who he's talking to and the circumstances surrounding the conversation (real or imagined) and you'll be fine.

    What you're essentially creating is a monologue. And those are common to literature from all eras.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds sort of like you're writing an introduction to your story with this approach. Sort of writing your way into the story as opposed to starting with the actual story in any real sense. What you shared as your beginning doesn't even hint at what this story might be about. Saying I'm not going to believe the story you are about to tell me makes me wonder why you just didn't start telling me the story. What you are trying to do might be able to work, but the thing is all first person is telling a story. I don't think Catcher in the Rye is addressing me, the reader, and more than other first person. Also, even though I think you should scrap that intro and get to the story, the tone sort of reminds me of the beginning of The Stranger by Camus. I would suggest looking at that beginning. While being conversational in approach we get hit with the idea that this is going to be a story we want to read without the narrator telling us such. You still want to think about showing vs. telling even when telling a story. Even not as writer, when we tell stories it doesn't mean we don't describe anything. I think you can write a conversational tone to a story without the filter you're trying to use here. I think subtext is often important the more conversational in tone a first person narrator is. In a way you might be making things a lot harder for yourself and the payoff probably won't be what you're hoping for. What you showed us is filler and not the start of a story, in my opinion. You don't need a first person narrator to address readers for readers to know this character is going to tell a good story.

    Also, I wouldn't start making spelling mistakes on purpose. They are just going to look like mistakes. There's a difference between a drunk narrator and the writer. Don't forget you're the one writing. Sure, it's first person, but the story still has to be told and written well regardless of your character's state.
     

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