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I've read some of the other questions on this site about how to write a drunk person (this link, this link, and this link) but what I'm not clear on is writing a drunk person's train of logic and how they justify their choices.

In my story, I have a scene where a character gets really drunk and then makes a choice that they would never make sober and that no one regardless of opinion would consider logical. I'm writing in first person and have never been drunk myself. The choice in the story is one where the character is given the option to either accept or decline an offer and they have time to think about it, so I need to have a quite long and wild string of thoughts leading to their choice. How do I show this character's illogical justification for their action?

To be clear, the links that I've looked at have shown writing from the drunk person's POV (I think I'll be good on that) but I don't know how exactly to write the train of logic. Should I make their thoughts fast? Slow? How do I connect the logic leaps? How far should the logic leaps even be? When faced with a difficult choice, would a drunken person panic/be violent irrationally or would they be stupidly happy?

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  • I don't do a lot of drinking to confirm, but there's one fun mission in RDR2 where you have to get drunk in a cowboy saloon and are looking for your friend... and the cut scenes of your drunken pov of what happened are hilarious. They also will give you an interface screw, such as misspelling prompts or dressing your buddy's character model in clothing he clearly wouldn't wear to show you mistaking a... "Lady of the Night" for your very male friend.
    – hszmv
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 13:09
  • I've an interesting story to tell here: I was drunk once (maybe more than once — can't say), but only realized two months later that I was! It was a few weeks into my first ever internship, when the company organized a team dinner that involved alcohol. I drank a bit (two cocktails and a couple of sips of pure whiskey). I didn't feel drunk at all. In my mind, I was sober as ever. Towards the end of the night, I said to a coworker: "You're Vishnu, right?" and he said yes. Two months later I find out that there's no one called Vishnu at my company; his name is something entirely different!
    – csmathhc
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 18:11

2 Answers 2

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I need to have a quite long and wild string of thoughts leading to their choice

Why does it need to be long and wild? A drunk person doesn’t think of their reasoning as wild, and even if an external viewer things they are rambling and wild, in their own mind the drunk person is making pithy and cogent arguments.

They are prone to thinking bad ideas are good ideas, which is partly because they are predisposed to want to do new, fun things and partly because their risk assessment is very impaired.

So your drunk person may be beguiled by any supposed up-side to the proposed job, and somewhat careless of the downside. But it will all be perfectly rational to them in that moment.

From observation of others being drunk and having been drunk myself, I’d say that what drunk people don’t do, is spend ages justifying things to themselves because they have both inflated ego and poor impulse control. They make snap decisions on a whim, and congratulate themselves on their perspicacity. They might spend ages justifying the decision to other people, but not themselves. In drink we all thing ourselves wise.

If your plot really requires a touch me consuming long and wild string of thoughts, you might need to create some reason for the drunk to be practicing the explanation they would give to someone else that they know would be opposed to it and have them rehearse their justification that way.

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I don't think there is a 'universal' drunk train of thought. Without any info on the character's type, it's hard to say how being over the limit would effect them.

I offer instead the 2nd oldest excuse in the book:

I don't remember anything from last night...

The colloquial term is "black-out drunk". The result is waking up in a location/situation with no knowledge or memory how you got there. Many stories of people driving home, hooking up with strangers, riding trains, but no memories how or why.

Supposedly sailors would get 'Shanghaied' and be on a boat to the South Seas before they sobered up enough to regret it.

In practical storywriting terms, you don't know how it happened so your character doesn't either.

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