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?