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A relative (who is no longer living) wrote a number of autobiographical pieces which I would like to publish in a book. I would like to include four or five chapters written by myself, that would supplement the relative's memories. In addition, some chapters will require a small amount of text written by me, usually at either the beginning or the end of the chapter. By "small," I mean half a page or less.

How do I distinguish between the two voices? I was thinking that for a short bit inside a chapter, I could use italics, or the dreaded footnote. But I don't want to use italics for a whole chapter. I don't want to have to use my first name in the chapter title three or four times. That would be embarrassing. (My chapters mostly come at the end of the book, but there's one that comes in the middle.)

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It's possible to make the difference apparent without spelling everything out.

For example, supposing the reader knows what your relative's name is, if you start your chapters by mentioning him on the third person, the reader will understand the narrator had changed. To flow back to the main text, hint at what's coming next, and put a clear separation.

Is there a need to use "I" in your chapters, or can you manage entirely without? If you focus on explanation text, you can remove yourself from the chapter entirely; write not as yourself, but as an anonymous observer.

  • Your idea for talking about the relative in the third person at the beginning of my chapters is intriguing. // I can't manage entirely without the "I" because there is interaction between us, and even some dialogue. Is that suggestions separate from the first, or would I need to eliminate myself in order to signal the chapters that are mine in the way you propose? – aparente001 Jan 11 '17 at 14:38
  • You can use a little of both. Aside from the conversations, your chapter will most likely be in third person, right, since this is about your relative. Even as the narrator you'll remain a secondary character. Whereas in his chapters, the narrating 'I' will be the main character's "I". – Nathaniel Solyn Jan 11 '17 at 15:07
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Set off your part with some kind of identifier:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.

Aparente Smith: About two months passed where Joan didn't write in her diary. We can guess that she continued in her job, since the next entry picks up with another lament about her coworker David.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.

For a chapter head, I'd be fine with reading Aparente Smith: Interlude or something similar.

I hear you about one paragraph vs. an entire chapter of italics, and I have to agree. A little is okay, but pages and pages becomes exhausting.

  • I can see that this would work, but I wonder if I could use a symbol instead? This feels too in-your-face for me. I was also wondering if a different font maybe? – aparente001 Jan 7 '17 at 16:22
  • Either could work, but I'd have to see it in context to give you an informed opinion. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jan 7 '17 at 16:24
  • Whenever I start thinking about a second font, I get all tied up in knots. I read, and I think I agree, that one should avoid sans serif in a print book; on the other hand, I don't know, maybe most of my readers will be reading on a screen.... I have no idea! If I imagine two serif fonts, I am afraid that if they're different enough so as to be obviously two different voices, then one of them would be ugly or inappropriate in some other way. I wonder if playing with paragraph indentation and line spacing would help make it clear? – aparente001 Jan 7 '17 at 16:27
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Besides the obvious solution of using an explicit identifier, you can play on the visual aspect subtly.

It hadn't to be so too IN YOUR FACE as you name it, because, other than the bold and italic, you could play with the multiple shad of gray. use different fon, or change the background slightly,

The reader eye Will catch the variation, and if you use an observable change of ton that they could associate with it, and give them a hint the first time. I think you'll be able to make them feel it without a lot of additional effort.


I suggest to go with a hand handwriting font for your personal entries, such as aspire

  • Interesting ideas. Can you tell me more about the background idea, and show or cite an example? Also, I am interested to know some example of font pairs that would work well. Your first suggestion, aspire, is attractive but I don't think it would work for more than a couple sentences at a time. It looks a lot like italics. (But more attractive, I have to say.) – aparente001 Jan 17 '17 at 4:07
  • it was just a "proof of concept" if you like, to expose you other perspective :) (and it's free) but you'll need of course to look for some font that are in line with the book atmosphere and feel, is it some joyful story? did you prefer to go with a classic looking font? did you want that your entries "sound" more loud and remarkable, or pass as side addition to the main text (hence the handwriting).. in the mind of a reader the visual and the audible effect get merges along with the text to form an idea, so you don't need to limit yourself on the text use only. – yaitloutou Jan 17 '17 at 4:17
  • I am incredibly unimaginative about these things and would love to see an example of a background, or a description. Are we talking about a very pale gray behind the text area on the page? Also, it sounds like you have a well defined taste in fonts. Can you suggest some? I like Garamond and Palatino. I can't think of one to pair with either of those.... – aparente001 Jan 17 '17 at 4:21
  • by the background, i meant you can give the half page that contain your own writing a liter or darker background.. and if you like it, explain the maiming of this color variation in your first into. Unfortunately, I don't have an example that I can present right now but I suppose you got the idea – yaitloutou Jan 17 '17 at 4:26
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Very simple. Put the lesser voice in bold or italic font. The reader will perceive this as a different voice. You may also preface the entire passage with an identifier i.e. Joe; Twas brillig and the slithy toves

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    From the original question: "I don't want to use italics for a whole chapter." – Neil Fein Jan 12 '17 at 22:42
  • Is there a font you like for italics? I was thinking maybe Palatino. – aparente001 Jan 13 '17 at 8:27

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