By: Marcy Kennedy
If I took a survey asking writers what the most important elements of fiction were, I’d probably end up with a few consistent answers—plot, characters, dialogue, showing rather than telling.
We might not automatically think of including internal dialogue on the list, but we should.
Internal dialogue is the heartbeat of fiction. It serves practical purposes, like helping us control our pacing, but it serves deeper, more subtle roles as well. Without enough internal dialogue or without strong internal dialogue, our fiction can end up confusing and
emotionless. We have people randomly acting,
like we’re watching a TV show without any sound.
Unfortunately, too much internal dialogue or poor internal dialogue can make our fiction feel immature, slow, or claustrophobic.
So to help you develop the right kind of internal dialogue, I wanted to share a few of my favorite ways to make sure my internal dialogue is enhancing my story rather than detracting from it.
Technique #1 – Alternate between paragraphs focused on the POV character and paragraphs focused elsewhere.
This topic could be a whole post in itself, but basically paragraphs in fiction should focus on one of two different areas. Either you have a paragraph focusing away from your point-of-view character and onto
dialogue spoken by others, action in the
environment around them, or description. Or you have a paragraph focusing on
the point-of-view character. A paragraph focusing on your point-of-view
character includes your POV character acting, thinking (a.k.a. internal
dialogue), feeling, or speaking.
We should try to alternate evenly between the two. Alternating evenly makes sure that we keep the reader grounded in the external environment, while also keeping them emotionally connected to the character. The added bonus is that if you’re working on alternating, you’ll be less likely to create the “floating head” syndrome where your POV character thinks to themselves
for paragraphs (or
pages!) at a time and puts your reader to sleep.
Technique #2 – Use thoughts that sound like dialogue.
. . .
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