Saturday, January 12, 2013

Talking With Myself

Scott D. Parker

Sometimes, writing advice arrives in the strangest of locations. Recently, I discovered some by a fictional character written by a fictional author written by someone the world doesn't know.

Let's be honest: when we're dreaming up our stories, the echo chamber of our own minds if often not the most critical. I don't know about you, but I have to get ideas out of my own head in order to see if it's even good in passing. Most of the times, my wife is my first sounding board and, just as often, the convoluted thing in my head sounds off-key (or too convoluted) when spoken aloud. Moreover, as I'm saying the storyline, I watch her face and can pretty much tell when I'm off the rails.

The "other person" is a good way to get that feedback. But, sometimes, there is an "other person" still in your head. I touched on this last week when I mentioned that I had been having some conversations with myself. One of my standard ways of getting ideas down is to journal them. In the past, this is more monologue than dialogue. Over the Christmas break, I took a cue from one of the Richard Castle novels. In the book, the writer character, Jameson Rook, conducts a conversation with himself to work through the mystery. In the novel, both halves of his brain work together to figure out his next move.

I did the same thing. I called them Me and Honest Me (or Me That Tells Me Like It Is). And I literally had two halves of my brain talking to each other over plot points. For every "interesting" thing I came up with, the other half would try to poke holes in it. Often, the hole puncher won.

Examples (each paragraph mark is a different voice):

Hang a second, I don't know what the subplot is.

Not my problem. It's on you.


Hey, I'm back.

I thought we ended our conversation.

I have a question.

Really? [sigh] Okay, shoot.

Granted, those are the funnier ones, but what I ended up with, I hope, is a throughline that's more cogent and provoking. Only time will tell on that. Or the wife.

Do you have a dialogue with yourself, in some form (paper, pixel)? If not, how do you work out plot points?

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