Living alone, I talk to myself a lot. If I haven’t said anything for a while, I’ve even made myself jump on hearing human speech! We all have internal conversations with ourselves, for that’s how we work out what things are, but actually saying things out loud apparently has value too, according to a scientific study.
It seems that vocalizing the object you’re searching for, helps you to find it, for speech focuses your consciousness on the task in hand. I suspect that all writers do a form of this—I know that I do when searching for a word—I prefer exhausting the options in my mind, before turning to a thesaurus, in the hope that it will better fit the mood of the writing.
Talking to yourself used to be considered a sign of madness, where lunatics were hearing the voices again. These days, with people connected to invisible entities by mobile phones, it’s common to see someone walking along having an animated conversation with no one else in sight. A separate scientific study found that one’s inner voice helps self-control, preventing us from impulsive behaviour. This partly explains the idea of an angel on one shoulder trying to drown out the devil on the other shoulder.
Authors chat to themselves and their characters with familiarity. Edward Albee observed: “I write to find what I’m talking about.”
Dorothy Parker was less modest: “Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.”
An author needs to find their ‘voice’, which establishes their style of writing, revealing their attitudes and personality through the characteristics of word choice, punctuation, dialogue and character development. In finding our voices, it sometimes helps to read our stories aloud, and while we’re bringing them to life, is it any wonder that we also give birth to a doppelgänger, who’s part creator, part reader and part critic? That might sound spooky to someone who hasn’t attempted to write a story, but writing techniques include such things as how the tale sounds:
“Rhythm. A play of syllables and even sounds. I hear sounds in a sort of indescribable way as I write.”
It’s normal that we talk to ourselves. I’m not claiming that my solo chattering is in any way profound, and I’m sure that if I carried a voice-activated tape recorder, that I listened to at the end of the day, there’d be a load of gobbledygook punctuated with swear words!
Do you ever get funny looks from family, friends and strangers, when you realise you’ve been talking to yourself about your story?
Have you ever achieved a breakthrough in your WIP by talking to yourself?