Monday, March 05, 2007

Internal Dialogue (and how I'm a Total Lunatic)

In my internal dialogue, in my deepest, most secret thoughts ("If I were Queen of the Universe, I'd have that person beheaded") and in my less secret thoughts ("Don't forget to pick up that Matchbox car from the stairs before you trip on it and tumble down to a messy death", or "Buy bleach")...I talk to myself in third person.

"December, you're an idiot. Why did you do that?"

"You need to get up now if you want to take a shower before taking the Princess to school."

"You're always tripping on those stupid Matchbox cars."

I always thought this was normal. Apparently I was wrong. ("You were wrong," I say to myself.)

It seems every other person--every normal person--thinks in first person and first person only.

Is it because they know themselves better? Is it because they like themselves better?

Or am I a sociopath? (December, are you a sociopath? There was that time you saw human suffering and laughed. Yes, so that was America's Funniest Home Videos, the one and only time you watched it. But still...)

I talk to myself in my head a lot, too. I'm a lot like JD in Scrubs in that way. I'm always thinking how things would be if this was a movie, how the next day or week or whatever would cut away and we'd get a glimpse of the future. But JD thinks of himself in first person, and I don't. So I'm either weird or incredibly self-conscious.

Or maybe I'm self-aware. Perhaps my third-person thoughts are an indication of my observant character, a special mark that makes me a writer. But my crit partner is a wonderful writer and I know for a fact that she thinks in first person exclusively. (Because she told me.)

My characters think in third as well. They refer to themselves as "you." Sometimes "I" but mostly "you."

How do you think, and what do you think that says about you? And if you write, how do your characters think, and why? Is it a choice you think about, or is it just the way it goes?


Anna J. Evans said...

I do think of myself in first (thanks for the 'wonderful' by the way...not getting shit done today so that was nice to read :)).

Maybe you do third because you are a novel/story writer. Most fictional prose characters think of themselves in third, right? I started out as a playwrite before I went the fiction route so maybe that's why I'm lacking the third person gene.


crowwoman / rhian said...

Ummmm.... that's NOT normal? Seriously? Are you sure? (No, Rhi, she's just yanking your chain. You did NOT raise your kids to all be sociopaths who talk outloud to themselves. Often even.)

littlebirdblue said...

If you're messed up, I'm totally screwed.

I do both.

"Why did you say that, Camille? That was really stupid; now he's going to know whata freakin'idjiot you are."

"Oh yeah? Well...I don't care. Nope. I don't, so just shut the eff up about it, already."

littlebirdblue said...


no way would I let my characters torture themselves with so much internal dialogue; I try to spare them that. And if they do suffer from a similar...affliction, then at least I can spare the reader; sublimate some of that stuff into action.

Weirdly, though--I often write book reviews that "I/you" way. Check out my upcoming GMR review for Sandra Schwab's Castle of the Wolf.

December Quinn said...

You're welcome, Anna, but nufortunately it looks like your ego is taking a hit here, as we all think you're the freak, not us. So there, lol!

Well, Rhian, I did think it wasn't normal. I guess I'm wrong?

December Quinn said...

8giggle* Lbl, I do that too! I have entire two-person dialogues in my head. I don't think I've ever added a third voice, though...

I don't use a lot of internal dialogue, but I like a line here and there. Sometimes thoughts can be funny, or are the most concise way to covey an emotion. *shrug* IMO, anyway.

Isabella Snow said...

Not only do I talk to myself in 3rd person, I now do it in 2 languages. 1 of which I am not at all fluent in, and Im sure makes me sound particularly stupid.

People just assume Im crazy.

(Like Im not.. ;)))

Isabella Snow said...

PS check my blog today!

Heather said...

I commentate my actions in third person in my head...

"Heather picked up the toothbrush and put on the toothpaste."

It's not intentional, but now that I've noticed it I realize that I do it all the time if I'm not actively engaged in something else.

As a kid I used to believe God was writing down everything I did and putting it in a book, so that's why I heard that commentary.

Therapy required, do you think? :)


Anonymous said...

When I do something intelligent it's first person. When I do something stupid it's third person.


It's V95 now, you idiot.

Oh, yeah.

Robyn said...

Third person AND first person, almost constantly. I also talk to my characters. "C'mon, Ellie. You want to go with Sage. Look at those eyes. Look at those shoulders. You know you do."

Welcome to the freak show.

BernardL said...

If I'm calling myself bad names, I go for first person, and I never apologize. :)

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. I do it too.

I also talk out loud to inanimate objects on a regular basis and any dealing with computers are personified. The little buggers do it on purpose and I know it.

kis said...

I tend not to think in dialogue, unless it's something negative, like, "That stupid cow, I oughta smack her silly," or "I should have been sensible, like our hamster, and eaten half my young," or, "What kind of freaking moron do I work for?"

I don't usually say this stuff out loud, for obvious reasons.

All the positive thoughts are just warm, fuzzy images and stuff. Kind of like in books, the warm fuzzy stuff is nice, but not great for extended entertainment. When I'm reading, give me some angst and a crazed, bitchy ex-wife anyday. "That stupid cow, I can't believe she just said that to me!"

Emily Veinglory said...

I do both, and sometimes second person as well :)

sam said...

I try to keep that little inner voice tuned out, because mostly it's telling me to do things like clean the house, make my bed, and laugh hysterically in church.

Bernita said...

My internal dialogue is usually monosyllabic - as in "huh?"

December Quinn said...

I did check it, Isabella--fantastic!

December Quinn said...

Welcome Heather! I apologize for not responding earlier, but I'm glad you commented.

I definitely think therapy is in order, lol! Actually, I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. And last night I had to walk down a narrow, dark alley in the rain. I ran with my purse over my head and commented the whole thing like a scene from a gothic novel. It was actually pretty fun, except for the part where I was genuinely terrified. :-)

December Quinn said...

Lol, VTC. Heh. Yeah, I do that too. Glad you're back!

I talk to my characters, too, Robyn! But they refuse to listen to me most of the time.

Good for you, Bernardl. You'll just have to get over it, because you're not apologizing to you for anything!

December Quinn said...

See, I'm not much of an out-loud talker, Jenn, unless I'm cursing at something that leapt into my path for me to trip on. Then I yell a lot.

Heh, kis, that's a problem I have--I tend to write good people, doing good things. It's hard to create a bad guy because I want everyone to get along. Which is odd, because in real life I couldn't give a fuck.

I think it's because I created these little book people, so I have a Mommy-bear affection for them.

December Quinn said...

Lol, Sam, that's a whole other post! Mine tells me to poke people, or swerve into oncoming traffic (when no cars are near, it's crazy but not suicidal), or any number of insane things!

I have a hard time believing you're ever monosyllabic, Bernita.

Tempest Knight said...

I don't talk to myself. But I voice out loud my stories dialogues. I can't hold all that in my head if I can't write them down, so there I am, saying those lines, replying to myself, while I'm cooking or showering or cleaning the house. *lol* You know, lunacy is a required disease to be a writer.

December Quinn said...

Hi Tempest! Wow, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I do the same thing, too! Only I'm usually repeating them over and over like a mantra before I fall asleep, as I have stowed paper and pens almost everywhere in the house. Which my husband loves.

crowwoman / rhian said...

Ha! There you are Tempest! I was coming over to tell December about the big revelation you inspired as to WHY so many authors talk to themselves in second and third - because they're using pen names and have mentally expanded their personas!! Of course that doesn't explain why I do it... but nevermind that - whatcha think? Good theory? Oh. You already thought of it, huh?

December Quinn said...

Wow, good point! I hadn't really thought of it, but it's certainly possible. I do sometimes--not often, but once in a while--think of "December" as a different person than me.

She's more interesting, I think. :-)

writtenwyrdd said...

There are different modes, I think. There's the "Me as Me" mode, where I talk in first person. (I want a cookie.)

There's the "Me as You" mode, where I talk at myself. (Wyrdd, you really do NOT want that cookie.)

Then there is the "Me as Other" mode where I talk about myself in third person. (Wyrdd wants a cookie.)

Then there is the stream of conscienceness mode where dribs and drabs of thought fragments drift down like glitter in a snowglobe.

Like Orion/Pat Woods said the other day on her blog, "We writers are a mass of undifferentiated multiple personalities." So, to answer your question: It depends!

December Quinn said...

Hey writtenwyrdd! Thanks for the comment!

Yes, we writers certainly do have some crazy voices in our heads, don't we?