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Internal dialogue - two distinct voices in one character's head (1 Viewer)

Akela

Member
I am writing a character who is having internal dialogues. Think werewolf stories, where both the human and the wolf voice can communicate inside the character's head (except that this person is not a werewolf) and I am not sure ow to best punctuate them. I really do not want to use quotation marks, as I find them too easily confused with an actual external dialogue.

Currently, I am indenting the internal dialogues, and have one voice be in regular script and the other - in italics.

E.g.,

Text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text.​
Voice one comment. Voice two response. Another response from voice one.​




I have also seen this done with italics only, each voice on separate line, but I find it confusing.


Text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text.​
Voice one comment.
Voice two response.
Another response from voice one.



Which way makes more sense to you, guys? Or do you have another suggestion?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
First, welcome to WritingForums.com! :)

There are a few ways to handle this, and whatever you do is fine as long as you're consistent and don't confuse the reader. In the novel I completed earlier this year, I had telepathic conversations between two characters, and I did the telepathic dialogue in italics, without quotes, and each character's dialogue as a separate paragraph, with no dialogue tags. However, I made sure the content of each dialogue made it crystal clear who it came from. I did that in two ways: First, simply what was 'said' could only come from that character in the context of the conversation. Second, I had one character speak in shorter segments, and the other in longer segments.

I do kind of like your example above with everything on one line with mixed regular and italics. However, I think that will only work for one sentence at a time from each 'consciousness', and short sentences at that. If longer 'speeches' are to occur, I believe you have to go to separate paragraphs. In that case, combining the regular/italic with your idea of the inset paragraph could be your answer. In that case, I'd recommend styling the paragraph format to inset both left and right.
 

Terra

Senior Member
Even though the dialogues are internal from the same character, I'm assuming the two are dissimilar enough that they could be separate characters in themselves. If this is the case, I'd prefer to see the dialogues on separate lines (as in your second example). If the internal characters/dialogues are different enough, I wouldn't be confused as a reader to distinguish between the two. You could develop each as if they were flesh and blood which would make it easy for the reader to know which one is talking.
 

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Board Moderator
Even though the dialogues are internal from the same character, I'm assuming the two are dissimilar enough that they could be separate characters in themselves. If this is the case, I'd prefer to see the dialogues on separate lines (as in your second example). If the internal characters/dialogues are different enough, I wouldn't be confused as a reader to distinguish between the two. You could develop each as if they were flesh and blood which would make it easy for the reader to know which one is talking.
Pretty much what I was going to say. 👍
 

Joker

Senior Member
Even though the dialogues are internal from the same character, I'm assuming the two are dissimilar enough that they could be separate characters in themselves. If this is the case, I'd prefer to see the dialogues on separate lines (as in your second example). If the internal characters/dialogues are different enough, I wouldn't be confused as a reader to distinguish between the two. You could develop each as if they were flesh and blood which would make it easy for the reader to know which one is talking.

Thirded.

It really depends on if you think we should treat these voices as actual seperate entities at not.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
As has been said, the key to clarity is consistency. In my WIP I deal with five types of speech.

  • Regular dialogue using speech phrasing: "Hi, how's it going?" he asked.
  • Internal dialogue: Sarah looks angry, what had he done this time?
  • ASL (American Sign Language): 'Hi, how's it going?' he signed.
  • Subvocal speech to a ghost AI entity: 'Hi, how's it going?' (same as ASL, but no ID tag as there's no ASL AND subvocal going on at the same time.)
  • Email and test messages: [indented] You're really in trouble now.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
In my story 'The Glass Tulip', I used italics to show an inner voice. Because he had psychosis, I didn't want it to be thought and I didn't want it to be an actual voice. It was what he thought was an actual voice. I'm assuming that's along the lines of what you are going for here?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
As has been said, the key to clarity is consistency. In my WIP I deal with five types of speech.

  • Regular dialogue using speech phrasing: "Hi, how's it going?" he asked.
  • Internal dialogue: Sarah looks angry, what had he done this time?
  • ASL (American Sign Language): 'Hi, how's it going?' he signed.
  • Subvocal speech to a ghost AI entity: 'Hi, how's it going?' (same as ASL, but no ID tag as there's no ASL AND subvocal going on at the same time.)
  • Email and test messages: [indented] You're really in trouble now.
What if it was: Sarah looks angry, what have I done this time? Italics?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
No italics. No separation. One block of text. The reader increasingly comprehends which voice is at work inside the one head. I think other schemes are not... ...are not for me. :)
I am so glad you say this. It makes perfect sense. I had started this way and switched over to italics and it has troubled me because, in close POV, it's not always evident when to switch. I can relax now...

Edit: However, the OP has a greater challenge with two separate voices. I'm interested to hear what advice @Joker would give in the event that they are in fact two separate entities.
 
Last edited:

Akela

Member
First, simply what was 'said' could only come from that character in the context of the conversation. Second, I had one character speak in shorter segments, and the other in longer segments.
In my case, one voice frequently gives instructions/insights to the main voice. His sentences are almost always shorter. He is more about instincts than chatter.

The other voice frequently, but not always, argues or questions the instructions, then finally agrees. Some of his sentences are longer, but not consistently enough to make it a recognizable element.

I do kind of like your example above with everything on one line with mixed regular and italics. However, I think that will only work for one sentence at a time from each 'consciousness', and short sentences at that. If longer 'speeches' are to occur, I believe you have to go to separate paragraphs. In that case, combining the regular/italic with your idea of the inset paragraph could be your answer. In that case, I'd recommend styling the paragraph format to inset both left and right.
There are no multi-sentence bits coming from one voice.

So, perhaps, my method will work?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
In my case, one voice frequently gives instructions/insights to the main voice. His sentences are almost always shorter. He is more about instincts than chatter.

The other voice frequently, but not always, argues or questions the instructions, then finally agrees. Some of his sentences are longer, but not consistently enough to make it a recognizable element.


There are no multi-sentence bits coming from one voice.

So, perhaps, my method will work?
If no multi-sentence, yes, but I think they still need to be short sentences.
 

Akela

Member
As has been said, the key to clarity is consistency. In my WIP I deal with five types of speech.

  • Regular dialogue using speech phrasing: "Hi, how's it going?" he asked.
  • Internal dialogue: Sarah looks angry, what had he done this time?
  • ASL (American Sign Language): 'Hi, how's it going?' he signed.
  • Subvocal speech to a ghost AI entity: 'Hi, how's it going?' (same as ASL, but no ID tag as there's no ASL AND subvocal going on at the same time.)
  • Email and test messages: [indented] You're really in trouble now.
I considered using
Thought, thought, thought, voice one thought.

But then decided against it, since it is supposed to take the reader at least a little time to figure out that the character voice is split into two.

If I use separate paragraphs, I would have to use ID tag, which would automatically give away what exactly the two voices were, which would be a spoiler...
 
Last edited:

Akela

Member
If no multi-sentence, yes, but I think they still need to be short sentences.
Here is an actual example.


CHAPTER 5

Town. Argh.... Why? I was just going to train. Town.​

Text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text,

Bring ten men. Are we going into battle? Ten men. We are just going into town, are we not? Ten men.​

Text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text,

Execution site. Darn. I was just considering sitting the hanging out on the sidelines.

Text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text, text,

So this is why you wanted me to bring ten guards.
 

Akela

Member
In my story 'The Glass Tulip', I used italics to show an inner voice. Because he had psychosis, I didn't want it to be thought and I didn't want it to be an actual voice. It was what he thought was an actual voice. I'm assuming that's along the lines of what you are going for here?
He considers:
  • one voice to be his actual personality/thoughts and
  • the other to be the bane of his existence that he is stuck with for life, but not actually himself.

Later in the book, he rethinks his point of view and is left with one voice only.
 
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