1. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Active Member

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    Internal Dialogue and Speaking to the Audience?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Adam Bolander, Jan 12, 2020.

    There's one piece of advice the agent I'm querying gave me that I'm a little iffy on. What are you guys' opinions on it?

    "Henry shouldn't talk directly to the audience, nor should there be an abundance of inner dialogue. Having this as part of your story keeps the reader from being intrenched in the scene. It actually pulls the reader out of the flow."

    My story is a YA urban fantasy told in first person, with a big emphasis on humor. Henry talking directly to the audience ("Have you ever been sat on by an elephant? Because that's the closest thing I can imagine to how that felt.") is part of her character and her race's culture, trying to push jokes and humor into almost everything. I can edit it out no problem, but I'm just curious as to whether or not anyone else agrees with her.

    And what about internal dialogue? I'm not even sure if I understand what she means by that. Could she be referring to something like this?

    I stopped moving entirely, those words shattering my mind the way a wrecking ball demolishes a house of cards. I couldn’t do anything but stand there and watch as my family, my freaking family, filed out of the hospital room—leaving me alone with Ethan’s corpse.

    Slowly, I turned to look at him. To think that bedsheet mummy was him, when it felt like I’d seen him alive and well just minutes ago. I could barely bring myself to believe it. But it was true. It had to be.

    With that, I collapsed onto his bed, crying my heart out. I was a terrible Hunter, a terrible friend, and a terrible person. This was all my fault. And now I’d lost the only thing that gave my life meaning. My family had disowned me. My friends hated me. I should finish what the maiams at Feverdream Field had started, and do a swan dive off the roof.

    Eventually, I stood up. I don’t know how long I’d been crying, but it hadn’t made me feel better. All I wanted was to lie down on the floor and never move again. And maybe I would. But first, for my own peace of mind—or as close to it as I would ever get—I needed to see Ethan’s body for myself.

    Slowly, I walked to the side of Ethan’s bed and held out a shaking hand, but stopped. Touching him after what I’d done felt wrong. But I had to do this. I clutched his bedsheets in my hand, counted to three, and whipped them off—


    Or is that just considered narration?
     
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  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Mod note: Temporarily locked, should re-open soon.
     
  3. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Adam Bolander, sorry that I didn't see you'd become eligible, this one is back open. Sorry for the delay.
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    "Have you ever been sat on by an elephant? Because that's the closest thing I can imagine to how that felt."

    This is what's known as breaking the fourth wall. It's a theater term––basically a stage has 3 walls so the audience can see through the space where the 4th one would be. In some plays an actor will deliberately turn to the audience and speak directly to them, sort of stepping out of the play for a moment. And literally the play has to stop while this is happening. It breaks a silent pact with the audience––the agreement that there's a fourth wall there. But it also breaks another pact. It makes you see actors rather than characters. It makes the illusion disappear. But if it's done skillfully enough it can work.

    I suspect the reason it feels so blatant in the lines I quoted is because the character asks the reader a question. Suddenly you're not reading a story, you have to rethink what the situation is. Is she talking to you? Is it a conversation? If this isn't clear it can be frustrating, and most readers will close the book.

    I think it can be done, but it needs to be set up right so there's no confusion. You could for instance start with a line like "Let me tell you a story." That's a bit blatant, and I think it can be done in more sophisticated ways, but personally I'm struggling with how to make that work. I've stayed away from asking direct questions because it does break the story flow, but I might say "I imagine an elephant sitting on you might feel something like this." (or maybe without the I imagine). But even there, saying 'you' feels like it's breaking the story to some extent.

    I think to make something like this work is an advanced technique, and probably requires a good understanding of the mechanics of writing. Rules are really for beginners, but you can't just break them––they need to be transcended. You do that by developing a solid enough understanding that you can operate without rules and still make it work.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
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  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Adam, are you sure your agent has experience with this type of fiction, and the target age group? This sort of thing is done all the time in first-person fiction, both in YA and even in adult fiction. If your agent has a problem with it, it may indicate he/she isn't that familiar with this type of fiction and may not be the best person to rep it.
     
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  6. Bascomb Brown

    Bascomb Brown Banned

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    I feel that both are fine, and I have seen many narratives like this across the genres. I agree with Steerpike, that maybe the agent isn't correct.
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    that - and assuming this is the same agent who was also giving dodgy advice about show don't tell i strongly suggest kicking her to the kerb
     
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    None of the excerpt is what I would think of as internal dialogue, and the following is only supposition on my part:

    Assuming the story maintains this level of intimacy, the 1st person narrator is engaging the reader in a personal conversation. Though the only actual 4th wall break is the separate line you mention about the elephant, the 4th wall is rather soft overall in this segment (not the same as a genuine break), and that may be where the agent is coming from with regard to the mention of internal dialogue.

    When the POV character engages the reader this closely, this consistently, it can be hard to see the transition between narrative and a defined internal thought. Unless this segment is not representative of the rest of the work, I wouldn't put too much stock in trying to find that particular needle in the haystack. I'm going to hazard that what is being made reference is the closeness, the intimacy, the way the narrator feels like he or she is sitting next to you somewhere outside, on a bench, lattes in hand, recounting a thing.

    And I agree with the above that this agent may simply not be familiar with what you're trying to do. The agent seems to have delivered a rather template-ish response to some hamfisted rules, which feels rather dismissive. Either way - a lack of familiarity or a lack of appreciation for the mode itself - would have me looking elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
  9. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Active Member

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    Maybe she's not the best agent to represent it, but she's the only agent who's shown any interest in my writing. I'm afraid that if I start looking elsewhere, I'll never find another agent who's willing to take me seriously. Here's the full letter. Does it strike you as something somebody would write if they didn't know much about the genre they were talking about?

    "Dear Adam,

    Thank you for sending me the manuscript for HENRY RIDER: CLOWN HUNTER. I absolutely love the concept of your YA novel. It is unique and intriguing; however, there are some areas that need some work before I could continue to consider your story. The biggest area of revisions needed is in the abundance of telling. The sensory details should have me right there in the scene with Henry and Ethan through their journey. Ramp it up and make it visceral. Something that puts me right in the middle of each scene with the characters.

    I should feel the fear of both Ethan and Henry. The tension needs to be tense throughout the piece, not falter in the middle. Chapter seventeen for example, has no tension nor does it move the conflict further, so it can be cut.

    Henry needs to be more of a girl--her name suggests she is male, but we know early on that this name is short for Henrietta. Having her throw her ponytail behind her shoulder or something to remind the audience of this is needed.

    Lastly, Henry shouldn't talk directly to the audience, nor should there be an abundance of inner dialogue. Having this as part of your story keeps the reader from being intrenched in the scene. It actually pulls the reader out of the flow.

    When working through revisions, think of it as a transformation of your story to make it more powerful. You already have a great concept. Remember, If it's not needed, cut it. If it doesn't move the action forward, cut it. While I am declining at this time, I would encourage you to work on revisions on the areas I've mentioned and resubmit when you've finished.

    Best of luck

    [name withheld]"
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I hate to burst your bubble but this is a nicely worded rejection from an agent who wants to encourage a writer, and has thus included some reasonably generic advice... shes not interested in repping you and you should move on to querying other agents in the hope of finding one who is.

    The other point here is that shes an agent not an editor, so you shouldn't take her word as gospel when it comes to revisions - by all means bear them in mind while revising but don't be labouring under the impression that she'll definitely take you on if you make the revisions shes identified.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020

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