The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques: Clustered Interrogatives

The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques is a running feature in which I observe, name, and discuss heretofore uncategorized (at least to my knowledge) literary devices. See previous entries here.

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Proxy Detailing:
Representing the interior thinking of a character using a sequence of questions about some unresolved issue in the character’s life.

Example:
“What’s he drinking for? Because of the thirty miles of black sea he had to cross tonight? Because he was going into the unknown? Because of Dr. No?”

-From Dr. No by Iam Fleming

Discussion:
Simultaneity is hard to represent, and I think the charitable reading of the clustered interrogative is that attempts to capture a character being torn between multiple possibilities. Still, I’m not sure that it represents an actual experience of ambivalence; I doubt that anyone actually asks themselves a series of questions in such a clear manner. To me, the clustered interrogative is a reminder that the character is being written, rather than being chronicled, and so it jerks me out of moment.

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All entries in The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques are original to, unless otherwise cited. (This means that they aren’t ‘real words,’ so don’t use them in your freshman comp essay)

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