Telling a Story in a story :)


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Thread: Telling a Story in a story :)

  1. #1

    Telling a Story in a story :)

    When a character is telling a story to another character and it's long and involved, how should that be presented?

    I have a father who is talking to his son, who is an adult. The son is thinking of following in his father's footsteps, so has asked his dad what it was like when he first started out. In movies, this is where it fades and the father's story becomes the movie, set years in the past. How do you do that in writing?

    Eventually, I will get back to the conversation between the two, sitting in front of the fireplace, but I'm a little confused about how Dad's monologue should look on paper. Quotes? No quotes?

    Like, for example, he goes on and on about when he moved out of the house he shared with his brothers into his own office. Should he refer to them as "your uncles," to make the boy feel included, or not? There is no dialogue between the father and son once he starts his story, and that was intentional because, like I said, Dad's story is THE story. The whole thrust of the story is to tell his son about the first case he ever deal with, to show him the pluses and minuses of the work he does, so it's not really a dialogue.

    Oh, and I can't forget about the son, because he is the one who is resolve some things that his dad left undone.


    I know this isn't very clear - ask me questions if you don't understand and thank you so much!!!
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  2. #2
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    "As John speaks, his mind drifts back 30 years, reliving that day. His son's face seem to fade away, replaced by that of his own father."

    Pick up from there, carry on with the flashback? Then have him come back to the present when you're ready with something like having his mother say something to him that's out of place for what he's remembering, and have him realize that it's actually his wife or daughter saying something in the present?

    Something like that, maybe?

    There... I asked questions.


    G.D.
    Leave it be and it won't bother you.
    Screw with it, and it'll eat you alive.

    Soon enough, nations will play second fiddle to corporations.

    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."
    "Freedom is the value, not protection."

  3. #3
    Member Hill.T.Manner's Avatar
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    If you're talking terms of presenting it as a flashback, all you really need to do is set up as that. I think G.D. did an excellent job in his suggestion.

  4. #4
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    Thanks Hill... I may not write worth a damn just yet, but it's not 'cause I don't know how to construct a story.

    And Sue, I forgot to mention that you can just carry on using the usual dialog tags when the father remembers the conversations he's had, as if he's speaking in the present, with maybe a bit of description to remind the reader that the conversation is occurring in the past.

    Give a note something like "He struggles to remember exactly how the conversation went, it having all but faded from memory with the passage of time. Finally something happens, some long-unused synapse springs to life, and it all returns to him, fully and wholly, and he once again hears it as clearly as he did then."

    Show the reader where he struggles a little bit at certain points, as if his brain is working like a cold, stuttering engine, that hasn't quite warmed up yet.

    Concerning the uncles, let the reader know that he's repeating the conversation back to his son as he relives it in his mind... The kid can make some acknowledgement or ask questions when the father returns to the present, letting everyone know he's heard what was being said. It won't make much difference what the kid actually heard, name-wise, since the reader will be "hearing" exactly what the father does in his mind only, during the memory.

    Does that work for ya?


    G.D.
    Last edited by Guard Dog; November 12th, 2018 at 11:01 PM.
    Leave it be and it won't bother you.
    Screw with it, and it'll eat you alive.

    Soon enough, nations will play second fiddle to corporations.

    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."
    "Freedom is the value, not protection."

  5. #5
    Clear and understood, I think, Sue.

    For me, it depends how long the father's story is going to be. If it's part of a short story then it's fine to say 'your uncle' etc but anything of length, like you're suggesting, and it might be annoying and make it hard for the reader to get absorbed in the tale. I would stay clear of this.

    Once the father has agreed to tell the story I'd stop the dialogue and tell it like you would normally write a story, but in first person, past tense. Then come back to the son by starting dialogue with him again. You could separate the story out with little stars and a paragraph break, like this -

    ***

    Or perhaps just start a new chapter if it's a novel. The most important thing is to make it clear that he's about to tell the story, and clear when it's over ie

    'Sit down here, son, and I'll tell you all about it.'

    ***

    It was the hottest day of the year when Johnny arrived, bla, bla.

    ***

    'So now you know, Son, I hope it's of some use to you.'


    That's my experienced-readers take on it anyway. Good luck to you, Sue

  6. #6
    GD! Brilliant! That was just what I was looking for and I think - I know - I can make that work. Thank you so much!
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  7. #7
    Arachne! Thank you so much. You really helped a lot and thanks for the luck. I caught it! LOL.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  8. #8
    I have this happen a few times in my manuscript. I had the characters say that they were going to tell a story and then I broke in a new chapter for the flashback. In my case these flashbacks are pretty long, so I figured that was a logical way to go about it.

    Sent from my SM-S120VL using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    You're welcome, Sue.

    And one other thing... Since the son knows his father and uncles so well, you could let the readers know that he feels like he's hearing his father's conversation as he describes it, as if he too were there, like some unseen phantom or ghost. It's just one more way to show how detailed the father is being in relating the story to his own son.





    G.D.
    Leave it be and it won't bother you.
    Screw with it, and it'll eat you alive.

    Soon enough, nations will play second fiddle to corporations.

    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."
    "Freedom is the value, not protection."

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by SueC View Post
    When a character is telling a story to another character and it's long and involved, how should that be presented?

    I have a father who is talking to his son, who is an adult. The son is thinking of following in his father's footsteps, so has asked his dad what it was like when he first started out. In movies, this is where it fades and the father's story becomes the movie, set years in the past. How do you do that in writing?

    Eventually, I will get back to the conversation between the two, sitting in front of the fireplace, but I'm a little confused about how Dad's monologue should look on paper. Quotes? No quotes?

    Like, for example, he goes on and on about when he moved out of the house he shared with his brothers into his own office. Should he refer to them as "your uncles," to make the boy feel included, or not? There is no dialogue between the father and son once he starts his story, and that was intentional because, like I said, Dad's story is THE story. The whole thrust of the story is to tell his son about the first case he ever deal with, to show him the pluses and minuses of the work he does, so it's not really a dialogue.

    Oh, and I can't forget about the son, because he is the one who is resolve some things that his dad left undone.


    I know this isn't very clear - ask me questions if you don't understand and thank you so much!!!


    When you write about a character telling a story of their own, it's all about the brush strokes. The story they are telling is only 50% of what's going on, the other half is how that person tells the story while interacting with their listener. I'll post an example in a few minutes.

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