Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interior Monologue

We've reached the end of this series of posts by my good friend and debut novelist, Kelly Irvin. I'm hoping it's not the last.

Kelly's novel, A Deadly Wilderness, is available now for preorder, and will be widely available next month for immediate delivery through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your library.

If you're planning on ordering this book, it can mean a lot to an author to get some preorders.

Just in case you're hestitating . . .

I'm proud to point out again that Publisher's Weekly gave her a wonderful review, and within the last few days two more fabulous reviews have surfaced. Check them out at Bruce Judisch and Genre Go Round Reviews.

Interior Monologue—the tool writers love to hate

I used to think I hated doing interior monologue. I mean all that stumbling around inside a character’s head. It’s hard enough figuring out what the people you know and love think. Now they want us to know what cold-blooded assassins are thinking or the guy who cheated on his wife (I think we’ve pretty much got that one figured out) or the mother who just lost a child.

With more than a half-dozen manuscripts under my belt, I’ve come to realize that interior monologue is a writer’s goldmine. We are fortunate as novelists to have at our disposal a weapon that filmmakers and TV script writers can’t use. We can usher our readers into the minds of our characters and let them eavesdrop.

Why is that so important? Because it develops our characters. We can show their motivations and their internal conflict. We want our characters to be realistic and people don’t go around baring their souls aloud to just anyone—especially men. I’ve been guilty of making my guys do a lot of talking. Wishful thinking, I guess. Just because they don’t say it, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking it. Being able to show their angst is a gift for a writer trying to make readers understand and care about their characters.

It’s also a very cool plot tool. The readers gets to drop in just as a character realizes something new, puts clues together, reacts to a situation, all of which could lead to the character doing something different, altering his strategy.

That doesn’t mean you want pages and pages of oozing emotion to the detriment of moving the story along. That’s the part readers skip. And readers are smart. They get it the first time, so don’t repeat four-hundred-fifty times the fact that your heroine loves the hero but she can never be with him because she thinks he loves someone else. We get it and I’ll be very tempted to put the book down or throw it against a wall.

My other pet peeve is when writers use their characters to espouse their real world personal opinions. If your character is a Texan who drives a monster truck, hunts deer, and has a gun collection that fills his living room, then yeah, he can argue in favor of concealed guns being allowed on college campuses while drinking a beer from a mason jar in a bar where you throw the peanut shells on the floor. The former cheerleader soccer mom from Massachusetts—not so much.

If you want to experience great use of interior monologue, read Julia Spencer-Fleming’s I Shall Not Want. (It’s also a great study in multiple points of view). Another good one is Earlene Fowler’s Steps to the Altar.

One more thing. I hate to state the obvious, but just in case: Don’t put interior monologue in quote marks. It’s thought, not spoken.

Bottom line on interior monologue, if it doesn’t contribute to the plot or your character’s development, hit the delete key. Done right, it gives the reader a deeper, richer experience that makes them remember characters long after they shut the book. And they’ll be much more likely to pick up the next one they see with your name on it. Happy emoting!

Did I mention you could pre-order your very own copy of A Deadly Wilderness? Did you read those reviews?

CR: I finished Breathless by Dean Koontz this afternoon. It was not a disappointment.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I pre-ordered mine AGES ago, so excited am I :) I've really enjoyed these posts, Kelly, and am wishing you so much luck with your launch! Great series, Peg...

  2. Thanks, Jenny. Easy to accomplish when Kelly's the one doing all the work.

  3. I love internal monologue--too much so, me thinks.