Whenever a character has any thoughts, whenever they think to themselves, or they talk to themselves during the story, it’s generally known as interior thought or monologue, or interior dialogue.
What it really means is that the reader is allowed into the character’s feelings to directly share his or her point of view, by using the character’s direct thoughts.
This device allows the writer to show what the main character is thinking or feeling, without the need to engage in conversation with other characters. It’s a good way to show what the character’s emotions and mood, strictly from their point of view. It allows the reader to become party to those thoughts, while other characters will be completely unaware of the main character’s inner feelings.
The benefits of Using Interior Thoughts
There are great advantages to including interior thoughts in your narrative. One of the main reasons is that it helps the reader gain an understanding of what the main character is feeling, it brings a sense of immediacy and connection and helps your reader identify with the character.
Moreover, it allows the reader to be privy to what is happening, just by sharing those thoughts.
It also makes it possible to learn about the main character’s true emotions, his or her fears, motivations and goals. It allows the readers to understand the character’s reactions to others, or particular events and situations etc.
It’s also another way for the writer to divulge snippets of information to the reader without resorting to large chunks of exposition and thus is helps to move the story forward.
How are they presented?
There are two ways to show the reader interior thought. You can tell them by simply stating who is doing the thinking, for instance:
‘Go right ahead, see if I care,’ she said.
Just watch me, Jason thought.
This example clearly shows Jason’s personal thoughts because ‘Jason thought’ is tagged directly onto the thought.
In this instance, however, once it is established whose thoughts we are privy there is no need then to keep putting ‘he thought’ after every instance of interior thought.
The other way is to show the reader who is doing the thinking by using narrative, for example:
In all this time, Jason had never seen his wife – soon to be ex-wife – act so selfishly when it came to their children.
His brows sagged. Selfish cow…
The way the narrative is written in this example shows the reader whose thoughts they are; therefore any subsequent thoughts within the scene will belong to Jason.
When should they be used?
They form part of your character, so writers have to choose the best time to show internal thoughts and take advantage of key scenes in order to enhance them.
Think about the dynamics of the scene – the kind of scene you’ve written sometimes makes it easier with the kind of thoughts the character has. For instance, does the reader need to see the character’s emotional weaknesses, or conversely, their emotional strength? Every character has fears, every character is vulnerable, depending on any given situation, and every character is susceptible to a range of emotions such as fear, grief, sadness, anger etc.
There may be an instance where you have action and drama and atmosphere. Interior thoughts from your main character can emphasize those dramatic moments and add to the overall tone and atmosphere.
There will also be moments within the narrative where it is advantageous to reveal more of your character to the reader, and interior thoughts are a good way to do this throughout your novel. It may be something as simple as revealing what your character really feels about another character, or what they think of the situation they are in. Readers love snippets of information like this, revealed from time to time like tiny gifts to unwrap.
Such character revelations also disclose your main character’s motivations. Readers need to know why your main character is doing what he or she is doing. What is driving your character forward? What is behind their actions? This is what is at the heart of any story – motivation. And motivation always drives a story forward.
Like dialogue, interior thoughts also help to slow the pace of the narrative, particularly in between fast paced narrative and action scenes. This is effective if you want both your character and reader to take a pause and reflect momentarily on preceding events, before stepping up the pace again.
In Part 2 we’ll look at how interior thoughts can be written – should you use italics, should you underline, use capitals, or just use normal sentence case? We’ll also look at some general guidelines on what not to do.
Next week: How to use interior thoughts – Part 2