Want to learn how to write an internal monologue?
Internal monologue is an important part of both fiction and non-fiction genres of writing. Have you ever come across a novel that pulls you in so powerfully that you feel like a part of the story instead of just someone who is watching from the sidelines.
An internal monologue is one of the most common ways authors use to indulge their readers into the story.
But what exactly is an internal monologue and how do you write it?
These are important topics that both fiction and non-fiction writers must know. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to write an internal monologue. Let’s get started!
What is an Internal Monologue?
Before you figure out how to write an internal monologue, you must know what an internal monologue is.
Simply put, an internal monologue is an expression of the feelings, thoughts and impressions of a character in a narrative. It is about putting the thoughts of your characters onto a page. It is the perfect way to give your readers a window into the mind of your characters.
An internal monologue is a look at the thoughts of the characters that they don’t share with anyone else in the book. It gives us an idea about what is happening underneath, regardless of what happens on the surface.
Why Do Internal Monologues Matter?
Reading is different from watching movies as you can hear your character’s thoughts in the form of internal monologues. You don’t know what is going on inside the character’s head when you are watching a movie.
Similarly, you cannot hear what a person might be thinking in real life, unless they think out loud. However, you still cannot be sure if they are telling the truth or not. In real life, you can guess what a person might be thinking or feeling by looking at their facial expressions and body language, etc.
The only time we are able to hear someone else’s thoughts and feelings word for word is while reading internal monologues in books. It gives readers the ability to experience what’s inside the mind of a fictional character.
In fact, being able to hear everything that they are thinking and feeling is one of the main reasons why people love reading fiction books. We know the characters in books much more than the people we know in real life as we know exactly what they are thinking.
Why Do People Read Fiction?
One of the main reasons why many people consider books and novels superior to movies and dramas is that they contain internal monologues. It allows the reader to get inside the head of the character, and that is what builds a connection between a reader and a character. It allows the reader to experience life from a different perspective.
In a nutshell, putting out thoughts and feelings of characters in written fiction is important as it is the only place where the audience can find them. If your story doesn’t make use of internal monologues, then you should think again.
An internal monologue is one of the most powerful and important tools that you have in your writing tool kit. If you use it right, you will be able to make a connection with the readers, and they will love your characters, as well as your writing.
What Does an Internal Monologue Depend On?
An internal monologue depends on the character and voice. As a writer, you must know your characters so intimately that you know all about their thoughts and feelings. When you are writing, it is important to know your characters inside out, whether you are writing an internal monologue or not.
You should know all about the kind of person your character is. Are they the kind that talks to themselves extensively? If they don’t, then extensive internal monologues won’t make any sense. On the other hand, if they talk to themselves, then you need to figure out what they will have in mind at each stage of the story.
Most of the internal monologues are centered around one main thought. The thoughts and feelings of your character may wander to other things, but they must always come back to the one main thing that your internal monologue revolves around.
It is important to find the right voice for your character’s internal monologue. You shouldn’t try to reproduce everything that your character is thinking. You can try to isolate their particular voice. It will be similar to how they normally talk, but just a little bit more intimate.
You must strike a balance between too-neat narration and stream of consciousness. The first will sound too forced, artificial and awkward. The latter will only lack continuity. Just go with the flow when you are writing. You can tidy things up later when you are editing the manuscript.
The Forms and Types of Internal Monologues
There are two forms of internal monologues:
Direct internal monologues are the ones where the readers feel that they are overhearing a stream of character’s feelings and thoughts as if they were flowing through their mind. The author doesn’t seem to exist in these internal monologues.
In indirect monologues, the author serves as the commentator, selector, guide and presenter of the thoughts.
Similarly, there are two types of internal monologues:
Short Internal Monologues
In short internal monologues, the thoughts and feelings of a character are depicted in the middle of the scene. However, extremely lengthy descriptions of a character’s thoughts and feelings will destroy the pace of a scene. Therefore, lengthy descriptions must be avoided.
In short internal monologues, you simply add a line here and there about what the character is thinking and feeling. This allows the reader to connect with the viewpoint of the character without disrupting the flow of the scene.
If you want to add more clues about the feelings of the character, you can present them indirectly in the form of their facial expressions, actions, words, etc.
To help you understand better, here’s an example of a short internal monologue taken from Juliet, Naked, written by Nick Hornby.
Do you notice only one paragraph of internal monologue?
‘Jesus, thought Tucker. Six years old and already these kids can parody the language of marital failure.’
This short paragraph allows the reader to experience what it’s like to be standing in the scene in the father’s shoes. However, the pace of the scene is not affected by this internal monologue. In fact, it only enhances the effect of the scene.
If you eliminate this internal monologue from the scene, it will only look distant.
Long Internal Monologues
Long internal monologues include sentences or even pages of a character’s thoughts or feelings. It is generally included between action scenes and doesn’t require a breakneck pace. Hence, long internal monologues seem natural, and the bulk of the thinking is done in between the scenes. Here’s why:
- There are too many things to do during the scene and finding time and space for lengthy internal monologues is not possible.
- The characters have more time to think once a scene is over. Not only do they have more time, but they also have plenty of things to think about.
Therefore, many writers prefer the long form of internal monologues. Here’s an example from the same novel, Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.
This is where the character goes into a lengthy internal monologue. You must have read many books where long internal monologues continue for several pages at a time. It is okay since they are not disrupting the flow of any scene or narrative.
Should You Opt for Short Internal Monologues or Long Internal Monologues?
While it entirely depends on the writer and the story, long monologues are much easier to handle as compared to short internal monologues. Short internal monologues, on the other hand, are much trickier to handle without breaking the flow of the scene.
How to Write an Internal Monologue?
Now that you know the basics of internal monologues, let’s get to the main question— how does one write an internal monologue?
Here are some things that you should decide before writing internal monologues for your characters.
- Whether you want to write the thoughts of your characters in first person or third person voice
- Whether you want to use normal text or italicized text for the thoughts
- Whether you want to use monologue tags or not
- Whether you want to use quotation marks to write thoughts of your characters or not
Using quotation marks can confuse the reader as to whether the character is thinking these things or saying them out loud. Therefore, writers usually don’t use quotation marks when writing internal monologues.
You can find all the above-mentioned possibilities in different fiction novels. So, it is a matter of personal choice. However, you must be consistent in the voice you use in your internal monologue.
If you are using the first-person monologue in the first chapter, then you must stick with it until the last chapter. This is because readers get accustomed to the internal monologue conventions you are using. Changing it time and again will only confuse them.
5 Tips for Writing Internal Monologues
As mentioned before, internal monologues are one of the best tools we have in writing. Yet, they are one of the most overused and misused elements when it comes to storytelling.
A long internal monologue might bore your readers and give away too much. No internal monologues, on the other hand, will not allow your readers to build a connection with the characters.
Thus, it is important to exercise balance when using internal monologues in fiction. You must also use internal monologues at the right time so that they can expedite your story and not halt it.
Here are some tips that can help you write better internal monologues.
1. Choose the Right Time for It
First things first, you must choose the right time to insert a character’s internal monologue.
Writing an internal monologue at the beginning of the story might bore the readers and give away too much information. It is always advised to start your book with some juicy slice of action. This will hook and engage your readers right away. Once they are hooked, you can then add details about the characters and their internal monologues.
However, don’t interrupt scenes to add monologues. It will only disrupt the scene and will put off the reader. Many writers use the spaces between actions to include long internal monologues. This way, they are not interrupting any scene and also give away the thoughts and feelings of a character.
2. Show Instead of Tell
It is always advised to add some details to the feelings and thoughts of your characters to show how they are feeling rather than spelling it out for the readers. For example, instead of saying that ‘he is angry’, you can add some details like, ‘he clenched his fists and got ready to strike’. This way, the audience can infer the thoughts and feelings of your characters.
Showing the feelings and thoughts of your characters rather than telling is the best way to write internal monologues.
3. You Don’t Always Need an Internal Monologue
If you can replace an internal monologue with dialogues, do it. This is because readers find dialogues more interesting as compared to long lines of text. It will add an additional layer to how your characters interact with each other.
However, you must make sure that the information you share about one character must be new for the other characters.
4. Don’t Spill Everything in Internal Monologues
A lot of writers make the mistake of giving away too much information in internal monologues. If you want to keep things interesting, then you must save some of the thoughts and feelings of your characters for the end. You should only give out chunks of information that are necessary.
This will keep your readers engaged and intrigued. They will want to know more and will also enjoy little reveals here and there instead of reading everything at once. You must use the information you give out in the internal monologue as bait. Give them some information, but keep them yearning for more.
5. Keep a Balance Between the Internal Monologue and Action
It is important to keep a balance between action and internal monologues. While your internal monologues can keep your audience engaged and add to your story, what readers really want is action.
If your book is more text and less action, then readers will get bored. Therefore, you must cut down the rambling as much as you can. Internal monologues should not replace action but add to it.
Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Internal Monologue
Here are some dos and don’ts of writing an internal monologue that you must keep in mind when writing a book.
1. Sandwich Description Between Actions
Don’t open up scenes with descriptive monologues. While it can introduce your characters and give all the facts to the readers, it also provokes yawns. Open scenes with action or dialogue instead. You can then add the necessary monologue and exposition once the readers have been engaged and hooked.
2. Explain Things Before Tense Moments
If there is any information necessary for a scene to make sense, tell it to the reader beforehand. Don’t explain things when you are in the middle of the climax. No one wants to read long paragraphs about why the protagonist hates the villain when he is pointing a gun at him.
Any such incidents and encounters must be discussed beforehand so that they don’t disrupt the action.
3. Use Dialogue as Much as Possible
Dialogue and action are always more interesting as compared to long pages of internal monologues. Therefore, use dialogues as much as you can to explain important information or to depict the thoughts and feelings of your characters.
However, you must make sure that your characters don’t keep telling each other things that they already know.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
Try to show your readers as much as you can instead of telling them everything. Add as much action to your sentences as you can. As mentioned before, instead of telling your audience that your characters are angry, show it to them by describing how they clenched their fists. This will make things interesting for your readers.
1. Spill Details Until Necessary
There is no need to spill out all the details at the beginning. Your readers will not be able to remember all this information. Thus, it is best to give details when needed and when it is absolutely necessary. This will garner the attention of our readers and they will be more interested in learning more.
2. Write Too Much Description
You can never replace dialogue with internal monologues. Avoid writing too much description and not enough dialogues and actions. Once you are done with writing the book, scan your manuscript and look for any instances where there is too much description. Try to mix and match things to keep it interesting.
3. Tell the Reader Everything
Many writers have this habit of telling their writers everything. Don’t do that. Don’t include internal monologues that give away everything about your character. It must be intriguing to keep the readers interested. You will kill their purpose of reading if you tell them everything in detail.
4. Don’t Replace Action with Monologue
We cannot stress this enough. Dialogue and action are the two primary features that interest the reader to read a book. If you replace it with lengthy internal monologues, you are just killing the interest of your readers. Therefore, use an internal monologue where necessary. Don’t force it on every page when there is no need. If you can use action and dialogues instead of monologues, it’s better.
We hope that you will be able to write better internal monologues with this comprehensive guide on how to write an internal monologue.