I would be really interested in hearing from you on methods of how to show the inner world of a protagonist, in pictures rather than using a voice over. For example, in the french film ”A Prophet”, the protagonist speaks to the ghost of the man he killed, wich I understand is a way of showing how the protagonist copes with the pressure of being locked up in prison and learning from that experience. Or, why not, in Black Swan, where the protagonist’s inner conflicts are shown in hallucinative visions of seeing her self… I guess there are a million other ways, and I would love a discussion of that.
Best regards from Sweden and a struggling writer.
First off Anton, I think it’s safe to say that all writers are struggling writers, at least in the sense that tasked with wrangling a story into being, that process is almost assuredly a challenging one. So from one struggling writer to another — I greet you in the name of Creativity!
I applaud your instinct to push to find a visual way to communicate what is transpiring in a story’s Internal World. One of the most common errors I see when teaching college students is they tend to rely on dialogue to carry the story. I remind them often: Movies are primarily a visual medium. They are known as motion pictures. Both words spotlight film’s visual essence.
The two examples you note are instances where something the character was experiencing inside is projected into the External World in the form of visions, one of them to the point where the Protagonist is able to communicate with the ‘ghost.’ Other examples of that: Bogart in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam and Parcher in A Beautiful Mind.
You can also take the reader inside a character’s mind. A great example of that occurs in American Beauty where Lester has recurring fantasies about Angela:
Something similar are flashbacks where the reader – again – goes inside the mind of a character to remember a specific event in the character’s past. There’s a notable moment like that in the movie Ordinary People in which Conrad has a breakthrough as he remembers the drowning death of his brother:
Of course one obvious way characters convey what is going on inside is through their actions, sometimes in direct opposition to their words. There’s a famous example of this in It’s a Wonderful Life:
George Bailey says he doesn’t want any plastics, he doesn’t want any ground floors, he doesn’t want to get married ever. But then, his actions show otherwise as he and Mary end up in a major clinch.
Those are some examples. How about it, GITS readers: What other ways can a writer expose what is going on in a character’s inner world besides through dialogue?
[Originally posted Mar 18, 2011]