INTERIOR MONOLOGUE - MAKING IT EFFECTIVE AND REAL

Here are some notes from my workshop on interior monologue. Remember, this is the short version. If you are interested in having me teach this session at a writer’s conference, please contact me.

Interior Monologue - what is it? In order to do it well, you need to know what it is, and what you hope to accomplish.

Interior monologue is the inner thoughts of the character, that person's observations, opinions, and feelings, presented in the perspective of the POV (Point Of View) character as the story progresses, determined by the scene occurring at the time. It works by sharing the heartfelt thoughts and motivations of the character. Good presentation helps the reader to get to know your characters and like them despite their faults. This is what creates a bond between the reader and the principal characters. Good Interior Monologue gets the reader into the thoughts and psyche of the POV character. It makes the reader want to know how the story ends for that character. By developing a bond with the characters, the reader wants to know if, in their quest, that character will eventually succeed or fail. They care about the character, and want to share the adventure of the plot all the way to The End. Interior Monologue shares everything going on in the character's head. Those thoughts and feelings help define a character's motivations for their actions. It shows their perspective on the current action, which helps the reader understand their motivations, and expands the story and gives insight to the reader into what the other characters possibly do not know yet. Unlike in a movie, in books, a writer has the advantage of describing thoughts we can't see in a movie. A writer can add thoughts from the character, giving the reader that advantage that we can't get from simply watching. The reader gets additional insight into the guts of the characters, giving the reader the reality of what is going through the character's mind as the character works their way through the ups and downs of the plot we are throwing at them. Writers always banter back and forth about "showing" vs "telling". This is a component of internal monologue.

Let's say our character is picking up an old, fragile treasure map.

"He nervously picked up the old map."  That is telling. (bad!)
To show this, we'd say: "His hands shook as he picked up the fragile document."

While that is showing, it is not Internal Monologue.  While it shows the action and it does show that the character is feeling nervous while he's picking up the map, that's all it does. It doesn't tell us how he feels about it. Showing can be an outside viewpoint, stated even in the villain's POV, as someone is watching. That helps the reader, but doesn't really draw them into the mind of the POV character because it's somewhat omniscient, ie watching from a distance.

How the character feels about what is happening at that exact moment is the Internal Monlogue, and that is how the reader will bond through the character. Not by just watching, but by hearing/reading what the character feels about what he/she is doing. In order to be Internal Monologue, there has to be emotion, opinion, and feeling.

Therefore, this same action, shown as Internal Monologue would be: "His hands trembled so badly as he picked up the fragile document he feared the decomposing paper would shatter."
This is inserting internal monologue into action.

Here is another example.

Telling (omniscient eye-in-the-sky)
Ed was eating almonds. He felt playful, so he looked at Ginny's computer, which annoyed her. "Will you eat a little quieter," she hissed at him. "I can't keep my focus with you munching like horse in a trough."

Showing (Ed's POV)
Ed popped another handful of almonds into his mouth and grinned at Ginny. As he munched, with every crunch Ginny's eyes narrowed just a little bit more. He turned to look at her computer to see if she was working or playing online games.  "Will you eat a little quieter," she hissed at him. "I can't keep my focus with you munching like horse in a trough."

IM
Ed popped another handful of his favorite almonds into his mouth and grinned at Ginny. He appreciated that she'd bought the can for him for Valentine's day, and he wanted her to see that he was thoroughly enjoying them without having to share. As he munched, with every crunch Ginny's eyes narrowed just a little bit more. His stomach churned. He hadn't meant to make her angry. As usual, he had done the wrong thing. So he could understand what she was doing, he turned to look at her computer, to see if she was actually working or playing online games. "Will you eat a little quieter," she hissed at him. "I can't keep my focus with you munching like horse in a trough."
Without talking, so he wouldn't make it even worse for her concentration, he picked up the can and left the room. He'd seen spreadsheets displayed, so she did need some quiet time, and he needed to respect that.

The bottom line is that Interior Monologue shares with the reader how the POV character is feeling at that moment in time, and makes it applicable to the current action. Now apply these principles to your writing, and draw the reader deeper into your story because now they're not just watching the story, they are sharing it with your characters.

Good luck and happy writing.

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