I am writing a story from the perspective of a man telling his audience what happened to him. During his monologue, somebody walks into the room in real-time and tells him something. What is the best way to do this?

Perhaps a clean break in narrative?

I look around the room, wondering where they'll take me.
A woman walks into the room, looks at the man, says "come with me, sir", then leaves.

Or perhaps attempting to blend the two?

I look around the room, wondering where they'll take me.
A woman walks into the room, looks at me and says, "come with me, sir", then leaves. I guess I'll follow her.

Is there a "proper"/preferred way to write this? Does one have more of an impact over the other?

  • 3
    I'm not sure your example gives us a sense of what your question is. In the end, it depends on the message you want to send. The below there is an additional action included, so it gives the man more characterization. Also, it's not clear what you mean by "blend the two", so I can't really give you an answer.
    – veryverde
    Mar 24, 2021 at 16:09
  • 1
    Do you have a full immersion in your narrator's monologue, or it's always clear that he's speaking to a room of people?
    – Alexander
    Mar 24, 2021 at 18:06

4 Answers 4


I think the clearest way to show this is for his narrative to be told in the past tense, and anything happening to him while he tells it should be in present tense.

Also, forgive me if I misinterpreted your example, but I assume the man is speaking to an audience and gets interrupted by the woman entering.

I looked around the room, wondering where they would take me.

A woman walks in. I stop talking. She looks at me and says, “come with me, sir,” then leaves.

I pause. She had to cut me off just when I’m getting to the good part? Well, I’m sure it must be important. I get up to follow her.

(If I’m wrong and the man is writing his narrative, just swap out “I stop talking” for “I stop writing” or something similar.)

I added a few extra cues like “I stop talking” and “she cut me off” to help readers understand what’s going on as soon as possible. This is especially important if this is the first perspective switch in the story. You could even go so far as creating a chapter break any time this happens, if your story allows for it, or if it fits your style. Being confused by technical things like formatting pulls readers out of the story, so whatever you can do to make it easy to understand is a good decision.


Since your story is being presented as narrative from a visible narrator, why not make the break part of the narrators presentation...

I look around the room wondering when they will take...
Excuse me everyone. As you can see a visitor has joined us 
and she seems to want me to go with her now.  
If you will all excuse me for a few minutes, I think I should 
go attend to whatever this is.  
I hope to be back to continue my story shortly.

End the current chapter there and start the next chapter with a new pov, perhaps as a limited third person watching the previous narrator closely.


There are several things about your quote(s) that confuse me.

A: The use of "I" vs "the man".

B: I am unsure about which parts are supposed to be 'still part of the normal flow of the story' and where 'the interruption' begins.

In your 'first version';

I look around the room, wondering where they'll take me. A woman walks into the room, looks at the man, says "come with me, sir", then leaves.

Isn't the person referred to with "I" and "the man" the same person? If so, I find it strange to switch to a third-person narrative, unless you have an additional 'narrator' narrating anything that 'the man' doesn't narrate in first-person. If that is the case, however, I think quotation marks are necessary for when 'the man' addresses the audience, but I get the sense that this isn't what you want. It also seems that way from your 'second version';

I look around the room, wondering where they'll take me. A woman walks into the room, looks at me and says, "come with me, sir", then leaves. I guess I'll follow her.

Still, when it comes to which parts belong to the normal flow and which to the interruption, neither of the versions 'read easily' to me. I would suggest you come up with a clear way of showing when the narrator is addressing 'the audience' and when he isn't, because in the second version, the two sentences seem to be directed at the same audience/be part of the same 'category' - as if the woman entering is still part of the story that the man is narrating.


I see at least three ways you can make it more clear what is what:

1: Switching the tense - 2: Indentation / different formatting - 3: Quotations for the 'real-time events'.

1: Switching the tense:

@Grace gives one example of how you could do this in another answer. If you prefer the present tense for the main part of the story, perhaps you can switch it to the opposite and have the interruption be in the past tense. It may be strange, but it may work if you make it clear what is happening.

2: Indentation / different formatting: Perhaps using indentation or different formatting for the interruptions could make it clear that they're different from the main narration. For the sake of demonstration, I will assume that 'I look around the room, wondering where they'll take me' is part of the main narration. Examples;

V.1: Indentation V.1: V.2: Switching sides enter image description here

3: Quotations for the 'real-time events': Alternatively, you could put anything 'happening in real-time' (as in, interruptions) in quotations that show that the narrator is not addressing the audience - this could require some re-writing depending on what style you end up preferring, but it seems that's likely the case anyway. These real-time interruptions could be mixed with the formatting examples above for extra clarity. Example;

enter image description here

You could then add to the real-time dialogue if you want to make it even more clear what is happening. You could even write longer parts in that format if you want to explore "that part" of your story.


I would say the second one, however different people have different taste. Pick the one that you like best and other people might like it too. People will reflect off of what you write. So pick which one is the best one to you.

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