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Internal Monologue: A Powerful Narrative Technique to Bring Your Characters to Life

CEO Khai Intela
How do we truly understand the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of our fictional characters? How can we make them come alive on the page? One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through...

How do we truly understand the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of our fictional characters? How can we make them come alive on the page? One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through the use of internal monologue. This narrative technique allows us to delve into the minds of our characters and gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what drives them.

In this article, we will explore the concept of internal monologue, provide examples, and offer tips on how to incorporate this technique into your writing. Whether you're working on a novel, script, or poem, by the end of this guide, you will have the tools you need to create compelling and impactful narratives.

What Is Internal Monologue?

Internal monologue refers to the inner thoughts and dialogue that occur within a character's mind. It is a way to give readers insights into a character's emotions, perspectives, and personality. When writing internal monologue, thoughts are often written in italics to differentiate them from spoken dialogue. This allows readers to understand that these thoughts are not being spoken aloud but are instead the character's internal reflections.

Internal monologue can take the form of a stream of consciousness or a soliloquy. A stream of consciousness is a continuous flow of thoughts, often unstructured and non-linear. On the other hand, a soliloquy is when a character speaks their thoughts aloud to the audience, as commonly seen in plays.

inner-monologue Caption: Image source

How to Use Internal Monologues in Your Writing

When incorporating internal monologues into your writing, it's important to consider the context and purpose. Here are some reasons why you might choose to use this technique:

1. To Shine a Light on Your Character's Thoughts

One of the benefits of using internal monologue is that it allows you to contrast the character's spoken dialogue with their private thoughts. This can provide valuable insights into their true feelings and emotions. By strategically sprinkling these internal reflections throughout your story, you can create a more three-dimensional and relatable character.

For example, in Elena Armas' rom-com novel, "The Spanish Love Deception," the protagonist, Catalina, shares her self-doubts and insecurities with the reader:

"Somehow, somewhere between slipping into my velvety fawn heels and the graceful, airy burgundy gown I was wearing, my head had started spinning questions. Important ones. Will I be able to find Aaron in the crowd? And also: Will he be okay? Will he get to the venue and find his seat? And the star of the show: Maybe I won’t see him until after the ceremony. What if I can’t find him?"

By revealing Catalina's inner thoughts, Armas deepens the reader's connection with the character and enhances the overall emotional impact of the story.

2. To Reveal a Character's Unique Point of View

Internal monologue can also be used to showcase a character's perspective and how they relate to others. Through their inner thoughts, readers can gain a deeper understanding of their relationships, dynamics, and emotions.

Joanne Harris' psychological thriller, "Gentlemen and Players," features Roy Straitley, a Latin teacher with an interesting internal narrative style:

"I have no intention of going gently into retirement. And as for your written warning, pone ubi sol non lucet. I’ll score my Century, or die in the attempt. One for the Honours Board."

Harris uses this internal monologue to highlight Roy's unique personality and love for Latin. Through this technique, readers gain a more intimate and personal perspective on the character.

3. To Display Internal Conflict

Internal monologue can be a powerful tool to showcase a character's internal struggles and conflicts. By allowing readers to witness their inner turmoil, you can evoke empathy and engagement.

In Colleen Hoover's contemporary romance, "Reminders of Him," the protagonist, Kenna Rowan, reflects on her mistakes and the consequences of her actions:

"Do you think they’ll ever give me a chance? Ledger doesn’t answer. He doesn’t shake his head or nod. He just completely ignores the question and gets in his truck and backs out of the parking lot. Leaving me without an answer is still an answer. I think about this the entire way home. When do I cut my losses? When do I accept that maybe my life won’t intersect with Diem’s?"

Through Kenna's inner monologue, Hoover effectively portrays her internal conflict and the complex emotions she grapples with.

4. To Heighten a Reader's Senses

Internal monologue can engage readers' senses by describing sensations, sounds, and imagery. This technique can create a vivid and immersive reading experience.

In James Joyce's novel, "Sirens," stream of consciousness is used to captivate readers' senses:

"Bloom looped, unlooped, noded, disnoded. Bloom. Flood of warm jimjam lickitup secretness flowed to flow in music out, in desire, dark to lick flow, invading. Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup. Pores to dilate dilating. Tup. The joy the feel the warm the. Tup. To pour o’er sluices pouring grushes. Flood, gush, flow, joygush, tupthrop. Now! Language of love."

Joyce's use of stream of consciousness intensifies the sensory experience, allowing readers to feel the unique sounds and rhythms of the narrative.

5. To Divulge Self-Perception and Mentality

Internal monologues provide a window into a character's self-perception and mindset. By incorporating these reflections, readers can gain a better understanding of why characters act the way they do.

In Hazel Prior's novel, "Away with the Penguins," both main characters, Veronica and Patrick, share their inner thoughts:

Veronica: "I don’t deign to answer. Instead I examine myself in the gilt-edged mirror over the mantelpiece. The Veronica McCreedy who looks back at me is as unsightly as ever, despite the generously applied lipstick and eyebrow pencil."

Patrick: "Grief’s a weird animal… It’s like this bungee-jump of emotions. You get jolted all over the place. It gives you this sick feeling in your stomach, makes you jittery and wobbly, plays havoc with your sleep patterns. I’m beginning to wish I had a spliff at hand."

Through these insights, Prior allows readers to empathize with the characters and gain a deeper understanding of their personalities.

6. To Reveal Connections and Comparisons with Others

Stream of consciousness can also be presented in the form of lists, revealing connections and comparisons in a unique way. Markus Zusak employs this technique in "The Book Thief," where Death acts as a narrator:

PART TWO

the shoulder shrug

featuring:

  • a girl made of darkness
  • the joy of cigarettes
  • a town walker
  • some dead letters
  • Hitler's birthday
  • 100 percent pure German sweat
  • the gates of thievery
  • and a book of fire

Zusak's use of this technique adds depth and intrigue to the narrative by teasing the reader with glimpses of what lies ahead.

Putting Inner Monologue Into Practice

When using internal monologue in your writing, it's essential to strike the right balance. Use it sparingly and purposefully to enhance your narrative. If your story is written in the first person, incorporating internal monologue is more straightforward, as the entire story is already coming from the character's perspective. However, when working with multiple points of view, be mindful of avoiding excessive head-hopping.

The more you practice using internal monologue and observe its use in other works, the more natural and effective it will become in your writing. Experiment with different tenses and points of view to bring your characters to life and create a vivid sense of their voices. Remember, if you can immerse readers in your characters' minds, then you've succeeded in harnessing the power of internal monologue.

interior-dialogue Caption: Image source

In conclusion, internal monologue is a valuable tool for writers seeking to create rich and engaging narratives. By incorporating this technique, you can deepen your readers' connection with your characters, reveal their inner thoughts and conflicts, and craft a more immersive reading experience. So go ahead, explore the power of internal monologue, and breathe life into your characters like never before.

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