Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Generally, writing something confusing is not good.

On the other hand, a writer should show rather than tell. (Generally.)

What I'm trying to do is imitate the way one's thoughts get all muddled while falling asleep. The settings: Character being hunted by people who are trying to kill her. Now she's hiding, and - after so much time on the run - is falling asleep.

Her drowsy brain tossed at her fake, annoying sounds of questions and requests in voices of people she knew. She wanted to fall asleep and sleep but she couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t fall asleep even though she was very tired. She wanted to giver herself away to her pursuers, to sleep, to death. She was tired, like a brink crawling and skipping off and on the height of a wall together with something else that wasn’t exactly the opposite of the sort of idea that tended to laugh particularly because when it was time to throw the street under the most medium lightning snake nobody would have to.

My question: Is this a valid way to demonstrate what the character is going through, or is it simply too weird and confusing?

share|improve this question
2  
My problem would be why is the narrator making less sense because the character is tired? Interesting idea, however it almost seems like we're suddenly getting stream-of-consciousness from a third person perspective. –  Ben Brocka Jan 24 '12 at 21:27
    
It's an absolutely great idea! Don't worry that the words are the narrator's, whose job it is, after all, to tell/show her state of mind. –  Pete Wilson Jan 28 '12 at 15:15
1  
@BenBrocka I agree. This is a great concept, but perhaps one should try to hint that the narrator is describing the nonsense that the character is perceiving? Something like She wondered why a medium lighting snake... –  HNL Feb 5 '12 at 5:25
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I agree with Lauren. I like the concept a lot.

It is a very difficult balance to try to use a unique literary device like purposefully garbled inner-dialog while remaining invisible as the author. If you're too obvious it feels out of place, but if you're too subtle then it just looks like sloppy writing. It's a bold move for sure.

I can think of a couple alternatives you might use instead of, or in conjunction with your idea...

Poetic offsets are a useful tool if not used in excess. They signal a reader to read this text in a different way without necessarily having to say anything at all.

"Her drowsy brain tossed at her fake, annoying sounds of questions and requests in voices of people she knew. She wanted to fall asleep and sleep but she couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t fall asleep even though she was very tired. She wanted to giver herself away to her pursuers, to sleep, to death. She was tired..."

note: not suggesting that structure specifically, just an example.

Alliteration is another poetic tool that could get the point you want across. Wordsworth was the master of alliteration in my opinion. Anytime I wonder if it's possible to make words sound like something completely unfathomable I read his poetry and am usually inspired. I don't have a specific suggestion here, but I do think that classical poetry could offer something more to your idea.

A final thought. To answer your question as briefly as possible, I would say yes it is Ok. The one thought I can't shake though is, if you had not specifically asked if it was Ok, would I have noticed what you were doing on my own? I think you might get a better response to your raw idea if you ask us blind next time. It might have been the same, I might have thought it was really clever, but unfortunately I'll never know because I already knew what you were doing before I read your work. Very interesting idea Jacob, good luck with it!

share|improve this answer
1  
Going blind would have given us a 180 deg 'better' result or view but I don't know if it would've been allowed. If he had done it then said it was a test, well, can somebody tell me the norm in such a case here? –  Mussri Jan 24 '12 at 15:30
add comment

I think the effect is absolutely worth working toward, but I'm not sure you're working in the right direction.

The excerpt you gave, for me, felt stimulating rather than lulling. The first sentence was frustrating ('tossed at her' made me think the brain was tossing (like tossing and turning) in response to the voices) so my brain was on edge, and then the repetition of 'sleep' and 'asleep' seemed to intensify rather than sooth. I'm not sure about the long sentences, either. I think they tend to build toward a climax, rather than ease into relaxation.

So, absolutely OK to try, but this attempt didn't work for me.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I like this idea, actually. I'd straighten it up just a little:

She was tired, like a bug crawling and skipping off and on the height of a wall together with something else that wasn’t exactly the opposite of the sort of idea, sort of laughing but not really meaning it particularly because when it was time to throw the street under the most medium lightning nobody would have to because she wasn't serious, not really.

There's just enough of a thread of an idea which can be followed semi-logically, without becoming entirely gibberish. It's a cool technique. Go for it!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.