Friday, February 22, 2019

Interior Monologue Pros and Cons--How Do You Integrate Thoughts, Feelings, and Talking to Yourself?

Here's a great definition of interior monologue:  "a conversation a character is having with themselves, internally."  Read more here.  Some writers call it internal dialogue.  Or thought tags.  But whatever you call it, it's happening inside.  

As an editor, I have strong opinions about interior monologue. 

Many writers, including myself, rely on interior monologue a lot in early drafts.  It's much easier to have your character think something that do the work to show it in actual scene.  Interior monologue classifies as "telling" in the reader's mind.  It's distant, emotionally, unless it's integrated into an active scene that demonstrates the emotion.  

In early drafts, use IM to your heart's content.  But be sure to come back in revision and question whether you're avoiding the work of scene-writing, and ask yourself why.  If it's just laziness, which it usually is in my case in those first attempts, consider it a legit placeholder that will need to be reworked.

I also find many writers don't trust the reader enough, so they overwrite:  they have a good scene but they add the same point as IM just to make sure the reader gets it.  That only puts your reader off.  They smell distrust a mile away.  Another reason to be ruthless as you comb through, weeding out unnecessary interior monologue.

There have always been two kinds of interior monologue:  direct or indirect.  I can't believe I said that, she thought.  That's direct.  She couldn't believe she'd thought that.  That's indirect.  One is in present tense, italics, to make it look like dialogue.  One is just blended into the narrative.  

But the modern trend is to just take the italics out.  You'll find some editors agree, some don't.  But mine have usually recommended taking out the italics.  So it would read:  I can't believe I said that, she thought.  

This week, for your writing exercise, consider combing through a chapter of your manuscript draft for IM.  If you find some, rewrite as scene.  Is it more potent?  Is it better as IM?

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