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Writing Internal Monologue

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

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If you dare, listen to yourself for a few hours. Don’t just listen to what you say, but to the internal monologue going on inside your head.

WARNING: If you really listen, it will be exhausting!

Listen to all those thoughts that would overwhelm the person sitting next to you—and maybe have them ready to commit you to some private place with tight white jackets.

Now think about your writing….

Narrating is NEVER enough. The mantra has been instilled within us: “Show, don’t tell.”  And by show, we’re referring to showing through dialogue—not telling through narrative.

Dialogue is NOT enough either. It doesn’t let us get inside the character’s head. It doesn’t let us hear what the character is thinking. What your character is NOT saying is at least important as what he or she IS saying. Writing your character’s thoughts into your story can add depth to your writing. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Your character’s direct thoughts are internal monologue. These are the actual words thought by your character.

Direct thoughts are generally written in italics. When you see what appears to monologue in italics, you can pretty much be assured that you are in the mind of the character.

Just as we do not always have to use he said in dialogue, we don’t always have to use he thought when writing out internal monologue. Use common sense. If the use of Jane thought clarifies the passage, then use it.

And now for some examples from my first novel, Betrayed:

EXAMPLE #1:

     Jeremi took note of the fact that Joe had chosen to sit in the chair that afforded the best view of the room. Is he a cautious man, or is it pure coincidence that he sat there? Jeremi wondered as he sat down, angling his chair so he could see the door.

EXAMPLE #2:

     Maria heard the car pull up the drive and hurried to the front door to greet her husband.
     After all these years, he’s still as handsome as the day we met. Maybe more so with the distinguished look his gray sideburns give him. She opened the door as Joe approached, a warm smile on her lips, her arms open to embrace her husband.

EXAMPLE #3:

     The deceit did not bother him. It was all for the Motherland. But to deceive one’s own children — one’s own flesh and blood…. Oh, was Maria right last night. They are so American. Will they ever forgive us?

Don’t exhaust yourself or your readers by letting all of your character’s random thoughts land onto the written page. You might think their thoughts for them, but filter them. Just as you don’t share all the internal monologue that goes on in your own mind, don’t share all of your character’s internal monologue.

Give enough to allow your readers to see the reasoning and motivation behind your character’s actions. Give enough to show your readers your character’s state of mind. Your end goal? To make your characters come alive to your readers—not just in word, but in thought, too!

 Comments anyone? 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

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  1. May 8, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Good post, Rosie. I would like to second the motion on not over-doing it. Huge blocks of italicized text turn me off. A few random thoughts are much better.

    • May 8, 2012 at 10:06 am

      Agreed! And may I always pay special attention to words of wisdom from editor friends! 🙂

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