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The Dramatic Monologue

Did you ever read a blog post by someone that turned out to be unintentionally telling about the person’s character? In other words, have you read posts in which the authors indirectly revealed something about themselves that they may not have meant to reveal? If so, you’ve read something for which there is a corresponding literary form known as the dramatic monologue. A definition from my trusty A Handbook to Literature:

A poem that reveals “a soul in action” through the speech of one character in a dramatic situation. The character is speaking to an identifiable but silent listener at a dramatic moment in the speaker’s life. The circumstances surrounding the conversation, one side of which we “hear” as the dramatic monologue, are made clear by implication, and an insight into the character of the speaker may result.

Victorian poet Robert Browning wrote several of these, of which probably the most accessible is “My Last Duchess.” In that poem, the speaker prattles on about his recently dead wife and what he saw as indiscretions in her behavior. He feigns modesty but, as the poem unfolds, reveals jealousy and pride, and it becomes evident that he has ordered his last duchess murdered. By the end of the poem, we learn that he aims now to find his next duchess, and we’re left to ponder the chilling question of how that next young bride (and the one after her, and so on) will fare.

Writing a dramatic monologue on purpose can be fun and surprisingly tricky, a balancing act with subtlety on the one side and getting the character’s nature across on the other. That is, you want to expose the character’s flaws and his apparent (or willful) ignorance of them without coming right out and naming them. The intentional dramatic monologue is an exercise in insinuation and understatement. Yet it’s a form based on the notion of free-wheeling, natural, extemporaneous speech, which is the  mode many of us write in for our blogs. The point I’m getting to here is that we probably, more often than we realize, write telling dramatic monologues of our own. The example that tickles my funny bone at the moment is one in which someone writes a rant complaining about people who complain all the time.

Can you think of any bloggers who frequently write in dramatic monologue mode? (Please don’t unveil them here.) Can you go back and catch yourself revealing more about yourself indirectly than you really meant to? Or, if you’re looking for a writing prompt, can you come up with a dramatic monologue featuring a character from history (a common practice) or of your own devising? I’d be eager to read any such posts, and if one particularly strikes my fancy, I’ll reblog it next week.

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  1. Funnily enough, while randomly looking at personal blogs, I came across one and the latest entry was very telling. While being a bit of a monologue and not baring many details, it still read as if everything was written right there. Don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that. Just can’t bring myself to write something so open in such a public forum as my own blog.

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    1. Just a quick clarification: For the writing prompt, I’m not suggesting that anybody divulge anything they’re not comfortable divulging. I had in mind more of a creative writing exercise, and part of the idea is that such an exercise might help us pay closer attention to what we write when we’re writing more off-the-cuff (and spare us some embarrassment!). 🙂

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  2. I wouldn’t say I do it unconsciously. When I know I will be publishing a very personal post, sometimes in the form of a dramatic monologue, I tend to hide behind one of my fictional characters (though it is obvious it is my thoughts and opinions since I am the one who writes it). It is a rather odd behaviour – now that I think about it.

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  3. “A rant complaining about people who complain..” that is funny! I do these dramatic monologues all the time and you’ve given me some ideas. I can think of several bloggers who write these and they are extremely well-done.

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  4. We always give of ourselves when we write. It’s all there. People just have to sift through the banter, the camouflage, the metaphors. Writing as in any art and in any a craft, is ultimately, an expression of the self.

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  5. This was wonderful to read off guard this afternoon. I love your writing style. Cheers, now impatient to read more.
    Many smiles your way and as well grateful for the stop within of my moments to catch this.
    Yours,
    Mira Faraday

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  6. I was told to subscribe to a post I found interesting so I found yours the best out of the page thank you x (I’m female hence the kiss because I automatically assume that you are male as social conventions dictate if gender is not immediately ascertained and, if this is not the case then please know I am hetrosexual and would not wish to offend any feminists out here who think I can’t put an x to a remark if the author is female, blah blah blah blah). Thanks for the monologue x

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  7. I do, most of the time, put into words, a part of my soul. But I am just a mere jotter… not so much a writer. Forgive the errors and wrong grammars, I must have been absent during my whole English Period. Here’s a link to my blog >>> http://wp.me/p1SWdt-2x Thank you if you fancy visiting a page made by a newbie like me.

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