Reconciling Three Voices

Antemurale

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Hello again! I have made quite a bit of progress on my project since my last stylistic question. With y'all's recommendations I was able to get over the barrier of reconciling fundamental differences in worldviews and, after setting some ground rules for how my characters ought to behave, I have refined the narrative from a general direction to a precise path. About half of it is written out, but I have arrived at a new barrier. Unfortunately, I have found that it is easier to imagine something than it is to convey it in words.

Shocking, right?

The title spoils the issue in a broad sense, but I am struggling with showing a character's first interaction between their 'inner' voice, their 'outer' (spoken) voice, and narration of physical actions and responses in the course of the character coming to terms with the inner voice. The context is of the moment a character ceases being an animal and truly becomes human, insofar as a human is defined in my universe. It is the moment when the character ceases running on the impulse of instinct and begins to preconceive actions based on need or want.

I initially thought to use the easy solution of the researchers observing actions, but what I had in mind is far too intimate to be noticed by even the most diligent observers - why would they acknowledge and record that someone opened their eyes, for example. I also thought to use simple italics or <alternative dialogue indicators> but wasn't satisfied with that either since defaulting to the third person to describe actions kills the immersion/spookiness that I am trying to convey. Using the first person to describe actions kind of misses the point. I will give an example in case the situation is confusing.

Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.
My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice.
"Who's there?"

That second line is the problem. How do I convey that idea without using a third perspective, and without it seeming like the character is thinking about their action(s)?
 

-K2-

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I'm just a novice, but...

'Wake up, empty bladder, find food.'
My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice, "Who's there?"

It makes it seem like the first voice is of another, though the single quotes are odd compared to the double quotes used subsequently.

Once they acknowledge the voice is their own, then:

Wake up, empty bladder, find food. My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice, "Who's there?"

I'm not sure what you're asking about a 'third's perspective.' 'My' makes it a first person pov.

K2
 

Elckerlyc

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I am not sure if I understand your problem correctly. If the person has a 'outer' voice, then it seems to me that some thinking process has preceded that. And can you think without 'inner' voice?

Anyway. I would imagine that this 'inner' voice wouldn't suddenly be there, but has been growing slowly until the moment that the person becomes aware of it, of something unusual. Like thus: the person is emptying his bladder and then realizes that he is doing so not because his body urged him to but because it was as if someone had told him to do this. Because if he didn't it could have consequences, like wetting himself. And then he says: "What was that?"
 

HareBrain

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If I understand your question, for me the most effective voice for the second line might be third-person present, without pronouns where possible. But that might make it quite similar to the thought-voice, in which case you might have no option but to italicise that, so:

Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.
Eyes shoot open in response to the unfamiliar voice.
"Who's there?"
 

The Judge

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I have to confess I'm confused! I'm conscious I may be completely missing the point, but for what they're worth here are some thoughts.

To go back a bit, how have you shown things before this, when the character is still an animal running on instinct? Is that of the "Wake up. Empty bladder." kind? Because to me there's a problem here -- these can be read as both actions and orders, so they're confusing the issue. So I think you need to highlight the difference eg beforehand give actions a different verb form such as "Wakes up. Empties bladder." Those are then clearly actions. Which is effectively what HB has suggested for the middle line of your three-line example, but see below.

Then, if the inner voice is in fact thinking ahead by effectively giving orders with "Empty bladder. Find food." the room for confusing these with actions as I initially did are gone. (NB While I know this is only a quickly written example, I'm not sure how "Wake up." can be an order of an inner voice, unless it's interrupting dreaming in some way, which is a whole other kettle of tench.)

That second line is a problem, because I can't see how the inner forward thinking voice can be a surprise when the character has sufficient intelligence to create long sentences containing complex words like "My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice." -- particularly as this presupposes a sense of identity -- unless this is being written at a much later date looking back on this emergence of thought, which I take it isn't the case. HB's suggestion of avoiding pronouns helps, but still to me seems wrong. And why would the character use the word "voice" alone like that, when it's not something that's audible?

If this character were an animal beginning to be able to reason and think** I'd look for something more basic such as "Strange voice in head. Shakes head. Looks around for creature with voice." ie I'd keep the actions in the same form as before and avoid trying to give any hint of the animal thinking about it.

Finally, I'm with Elckerlyc, that I'm finding it hard to accept an "outer voice" where the character speaks and knows what s/he's saying, when there hasn't been an inner voice beforehand. I'd expect thought and voice to emerge together, so again thinking of an animal which is acquiring human-type thought I'd make it something like "Growls question -- who there?"

I'm not sure that's been of the slightest help, but at least it made me think!


** I'm reminded of the rats achieving intelligence in Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents -- they have much the same dilemma as this, but that's written for comic effect.
 

Antemurale

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I appreciate the responses, and I am sorry for the confusion. Believe it or not, even that is helpful to me since it is a strange situation and one that doesn't make much sense outside of the the broader narrative. This is meant to be one of the watershed moments in the narrative. Up to this point, the story has consisted of impersonal researchers and their observations of strange little beasts that they are making and improving for some reason.

To give a little more background, and maybe help with context, the human in this particular scenario is waking up for the first time. They are manufactured to possess the knowledge gained from prior generations, and each successive iteration is modified both physically and mentally to bypass the (long and inefficient) process of natural selection and (hopefully) arrive at a more useful product. The prior generation managed to achieve a basic social hierarchy, but was not capable of complex vocalization. Thus, as this new person was pre-programmed with those memories and addition of a rudimentary syntax, they inherently understand the concept of other. This version will deal with the new feature - self.

The voice in this case isn't the audible voice of another, but the voice inside their head. In real life, we are able to distinguish between our thoughts and the world but in this case I thought I'd explore the idea that, lacking prior experience, the little voice inside our head - our thoughts and inner monologue - could be a rather loud and intimidating presence until we recognize that its not only not 'real' in the physical sense, but completely under our own control. So when the person "hears a voice" in this case its entirely internal but, lacking any context for the ability to think or preconceive of actions, the internal voice is misconstrued as an external voice.

My issue lies in describing physical reactions to the internal voice. I want to show the human doing things without it seeming like the actions they take are preconceived. When they open their eyes I want to be able to express that action without breaking the illusion created by it being a first person exchange with their self.

Again, I apologize for the confusion. I understand that this is an incredibly nuanced problem and appreciate any suggestions.
 

Provincial

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Instead of changing the second line, why don’t you italicise the first line, the physical monologue, as illustrated by K2? It suggests the voice is originating outside the body without explicitly saying so.You could retain that format for all physical monologues. It would make them distinctive without making it clear why they are different, and you would then bring their significance to light through the action in the story; you know the old movie-making injunction, “Show, don’t tell”. Or have I misunderstood, and am perhaps barking up the wrong tree?
 

tinkerdan

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This is not necessarily how you should do it, but how I'd do it.

Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.[Italics always for strange inner voices]
I pop my eyes wide open, probably creating an expression as startled as I feel.[When in first person, I hate it when my body does things on its own.][, in response to the unfamiliar voice--I call this leading the reader by the nose; they should get this without being told]
"Who's there?"
 

tinkerdan

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Looking at your question--closer.
When in first person it is difficult to describe yourself without cheating ie. looking in the mirror seeing a reflection.
You pretty much have to rely on describing what you are doing and thinking.
So yes--it looks like you are thinking a lot.

Sure you could probably chop off stuff.
Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.[Italics always for strange inner voices]
Eyes open wide, I shout, "Who's there?" [Once again leaving off the unfamiliar voice which is obvious and you did say you wanted to cut down the feeling of extra thinking and I think that if you reduce what is obvious and take it out it will help.]
 

Elckerlyc

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To give a little more background, and maybe help with context, the human in this particular scenario is waking up for the first time. They are manufactured to possess the knowledge gained from prior generations, and each successive iteration is modified both physically and mentally to bypass the (long and inefficient) process of natural selection and (hopefully) arrive at a more useful product. The prior generation managed to achieve a basic social hierarchy, but was not capable of complex vocalization. Thus, as this new person was pre-programmed with those memories and addition of a rudimentary syntax, they inherently understand the concept of other. This version will deal with the new feature - self.
I can't say I experience my thoughts as an inner voice. Even if that was the case, it clearly resides inside my head. So calling out "Who's there?" seems unlikely to me. I might be terrified if I heard a voice in my head and rather be inclined to shout "Get out!"
If these generations are manufactured, complete with knowledge from prior generations and mental abilities, plus equipped with a rudimentary syntax, I wonder if they would be surprised by thoughts at all, at least not at a level that leads to crying "Who's there?"

If a person has no notion of a self yet, would that person simply follow instructions issued by an inner voice or would it rebel and question that voice?
 

BT Jones

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I would be tempted to adjust the narrative slightly to have the character looking around, confused. Where had the voice come from?
e.g.

Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.
My eyes shoot open; a strange voice, coming from...where?
"Who's there?"

(And then, for an example, something like)

No other persons present. Turn head. Verify.
He peered from the capsule. An empty room.
"So..., who's talking?"
Automated motor control subroutine...

Anyway, that's obviously just my take. All the other suggestions above are equally as valid. I've battled similar conventions myself!
 

DLCroix

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The voice in this case isn't the audible voice of another, but the voice inside their head.
Hello! This gives me a clue as to what the solution may be: according to the convention, inner thoughts should be in italics, right? And the dialogues in quotation marks. But dialogs in voiceover (example, someone you're talking to on the phone, a radio broadcast, the sound of a program that is playing on TV) are usually enclosed in quotation marks but also in italics. That's what I'm proposing. At least that's what I use for thought transmissions. Since they are dialogues should be in quotation marks, but as they are thoughts, italics are also applied. Ready. I earned a chocolate! :giggle:

"Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food."
My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice.
"Who's there?"
 

Brian G Turner

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Don't put speech marks around internal dialogue. :)


Wake up. Empty bladder. Find food.
My eyes shot open in response to the unfamiliar voice.
"Who's there?"
 
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