Do you talk to yourself?

Do you?  I mean, out loud?

I didn’t used to.  Only deranged people talk aloud to themselves, right?  But there are certain circumstances now when I find myself doing it.

Like when I carry two super-heavy bags of groceries in from the car and heave them onto the kitchen counter.  Okay, I grunt in relief when the first hits.  Okay, I grunt when the second lands beside it.

I also talk to myself in times of frustration, like when someone cuts me off in traffic.  You imbecile, I mutter under my breath, often using a more rude word than imbecile, but since I’m talking to myself, myself isn’t shocked.  Are you in such a *** rush that you can’t be civil?

Or disbelief, when it’s dinnertime and the rice suddenly boils and goes all over my nice clean stove because I was distracted reaching for the phone, only to find that it’s another political call.  Slamming down the phone, I grab for the pan, lower the heat, and shout, I wouldn’t vote for your guy if my life depended on it!

This is internal narrative gone external, and there’s definitely a cathartic value to it.  There’s no faster way to release tension.  And it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But what about internal narrative in a novel?  Have you ever read a book where the main character ruminates at length over every single thing that either has happened or is about to happen?  In this instance, it does hurt someone.  It hurts the reader, who becomes bored, and it hurts the author, who loses a reader.

Now that I’m writing the climactic scenes of Sweet Salt Air, I think about this a lot.  The characters are feeling high emotion at this stage, and some internal narrative is good.  But there’s a fine line between good and iffy.  My solution?  At this point in the story, Charlotte is on Quinnipeague, my fictitious Maine island, and Nicole is in Chicago, in very real Illinois.  Since they can’t be physically together, I’ve been combining internal narrative with texting.  Mind you, I’m careful not to repeat their thoughts – i.e., Nicole cannot text Charlotte the same thing she has just told you in internal narrative.  But she can certainly text her the what-comes-next bit.

I wish I could say that there’s no repetition when I talk to myself, but there is.  Oh yes, it’s cathartic.  But aren’t you glad you don’t have to hear me then?

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Andrea Martin on May 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I just finished “Escape” and enjoyed it as I have as many of your other books I have read. I’ll be darned if I can find it now but near the end of the book there is the capital letter I that somehow got missed during editing. While I was just about to finish the book on Sunday, my son and I attended the Blue Dog Shelter fundraiser here in Easton in their new location for a dog walk – ideal for the dogs and the visitors not to mention a perfect day. Since Emily was helping out at a shelter, the timing was great; I was able to share what I was reading with the persons I talked to at the event. I pass on books to my best friend (who just left for London yesterday and will use her Kindle to read) but they are hard to part with. Yet, losing my job of 30 years, my condo and my retirement funds, has forced me to use the library more often (not a hardship) and the community center’s bookshelves where we can borrow books and keep as long as we want.
    I have a question and can probably look for the answer in your book – when writing about the thoughts of a character are they enclosed in quote marks as in real conversation? I think I remember my Engl. Prof. correcting one of my stories for him and saying they are not needed in writing the thoughts of a person. I am not a young graduate having been 61 when I got my degree in 2001 and Andrew Card’s father was in the class as well. Looking forward to your next book. Thank you for providing me with great “escapes” as I adjust to my “retirement”.

    • Avatar Barbara Delinsky on May 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Your professor is right, Andrea. No quote needed when writing a character’s thoughts. I sometimes use italics. But using quotes would make it seem like the person was talking aloud, which would be totally confusing if there were other people in the room.

      I’m thrilled you enjoyed ESCAPE!

  2. Avatar Jessica on June 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve noticed that since I started at the police academy that it’s made me talk to myself even more, especially when we were going through firearms training. It amused my instructors but no doubt made them question my sanity.

  3. Avatar Michelle Reeves on July 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Funny. Yes. I do. There! I’ve finally admitted it hahaha

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