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I'm writing a story where my two main characters have been merged together so that they share a single body. They spend a lot of time discussing things and arguing on what actions to take. This has resulted in some very odd sections of dialogue to write where they are communicating but they are talking to someone else at the same time.

I am finding it hard to keep dialogue fresh - even when it's just them communicating - as they can't use body language with one another. I don't want to fill my novel with "thought at" since they can choose to keep some thoughts private from the other because everyone has secrets.

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  1. The dialogue between them, through their minds should be italicized.

  2. Fresh dialogue: well if they are talking between them, then they answer someone's question and it's what they've been discussing in their heads, it's obvious you have to repeat the same thing to the person who asked. Maybe, make the answer shorter and use different wording, but you still need to give the facts.

  3. They can't use gestures, however they can use glances. Cold eyes, laughter hidden in the depth of their gazes. Use the brows to show approval, disapproval, surprise. Mouth too can be used: tight lips for disapproval, a smirk, small things that can be hidden from others. Even hands: they can clench their hands in anger.

  4. Internal dialogue is like external one, you can omit he thought to the other by using description.

Bob glanced down. Gerry do you see the ant.

Gerry followed Bob's gaze. Good gracious, it's enormous. Is it a new species?

See, no need to say 'thought at' all the time. And as you pointed out, these guys aren't going to talk all the time.

P.S. Oh goodness, that line escaped me! But still, the body can feel emotions. If the thoughts aren't to his liking, he could tense, or his heart speed up in anger, happiness. His blood could boil. Ex: Bob stared at the man in front of him. Hey Greg, this is the man you mentioned?

Greg scoffed. Of course not. This one looks like a mouse. The one I spoke about looks like Hulk.

Bob grunted. The man in front of him tilted his head but didn't utter a word to Bob's relief. So why didn't you say so before?

Silence stretched and Bob knew Greg wasn't happy with the question.

I think since they are merged, they can feel each other's feelings. Right?

  • I like the idea of putting their thoughts into itallics, though your example wouldn't quite work because they are the same person so they can't follow the others gaze – Gladiator Kittens Nov 9 '17 at 15:11
  • Since it was long I edited the post. – A.T. Catmus Nov 9 '17 at 15:33
  • They can definitely sense how the other person is feeling, using that to my advantage would help take out some of the repetition in the writing – Gladiator Kittens Nov 9 '17 at 15:36
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    The one with the body might lose it at times and use gestures, especially if he's alone and has a mirror in front of him. You can play with that, too. If there are people, you can make them stare in confusion. Going back to inner dialogue, I prefer to see it in italics. It's less confusing, especially if you have lots of it. – A.T. Catmus Nov 9 '17 at 15:42
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Adding to A.T Catmus answer, mental communications could have a sort of "flavour". As humans we are able to determine emotions of a speaker only judging by a spoken sentence; thoughts could be treated in the same way. After all, probably a part of one own emotions gets carried with the message itself. Since humans are social animals, we are designed to recognize and react in front of emotions, so:

I'm telling you, I didn't do it. Bob's thoughts reverberated with force into Greg's head, making his teeth grind by reflex.

Don't go shouting in my head. He coldly answered with slight annoyance. But then a rush of guilt struck him; given Bob's situation, he had a lot of reasons to be angry. Reprimanding him for being rude wasn't going to help. I know you're stressed, but I had to make sure. he added, trying to convey consideration.

Still, things are gonna go south for me. Bob's bleak answer showed that his attempt only had partial success.

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There's a fairly common writing exercise where you write a scene of pure dialog with no tags or description. You won't be nearly that limited, but you will be relying more heavily on dialog than your average scene, so it's still a good source of practice. And because the exercise is common, you'll be able to find other people's examples and hear their tips and tricks for keeping voices distinct and communicating without displaying body language.

Also, "extra voice riding along in someone's body" isn't such a rare trope that you can't find examples of it. Here are a few:

Widdershins and Olgun from Widdershins Adventures by Ari Marmell. This series actually takes it a step father - Olgun communicates exclusively through emotions, not actual words.

The sword Nightblood from Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. Talking swords in general are a good place to look for this.

Praxis Crossing by Morpheus features a man and a superheroine who are combined into the same body in a manner that sounds very similar to what you're planning. Definitely worth a look. (A few scenes are R rated, though)

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