This Business of Writing

How to Write Internal Monologue

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 22, 2010 at 8:10 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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Internal monologue, a CHARACTER’s thoughts, is a tool by which you can improve your writing to a dramatic degree. Once you learn how to write internal monologue, you can infuse your novels with added dimensions of intrigue and emotion.

Despite its difference from spoken dialogue, internal monologue should conform to the basic tenants found within the craft of writing. By this I mean you should still show instead of tell, maintain the character’s voice, stay in Point of View and all the rest. You mustn’t think a character’s thoughts changes any of the basic “rules” within the craft of writing.

As I alluded to above, internal monologue is all about the character and his voice. Is your character the type of person who would express his thoughts in the way you indicate? And if so, do his thoughts fit his personality? Does he think the same way he would speak? Ensure his monologues match who he is.

Things you do NOT do with internal monologue:

  1. Present the information before its time. When the reader needs to know it, then present it.
  2. Employ thoughts as a substitute for conflict. Conflict and dialogue drive your story, not thoughts.

Things you DO with internal monologue:

  1. Incorporate your monologues between your CONFLICT. When the ship is about to sink is the time for your character to think about the home. Home has more significance if it’s wrapped around the conflict.
  2. Pick your opportunities to utilize internal monologues with care. Your character should be in a situation that drives high emotions.
  3. Choose those times to insert the monologue for when they’ll have the most affect.
  4. Make sure your reader understands the character is done thinking. Nothing slows a novel like a readers who wonders, “Huh? What did I miss?”
  5. Include details that touch the reader’s senses. After all, you want your reader to feel what is going on, right?

The classic opportunities to incorporate internal dialogue into your writing is when your character comes to a momentous decision, makes a startling discovery, sees a new opportunity or tries to hide his emotions.

How might you punctuate internal monologue?

If you use a word or phrase to replace the word, “said,” to show your character is thinking, you format like regular dialogue. Or you can simply italicize his thoughts. Both of the following examples are correct.

“But, I assumed I was right,” he thought.
But I assumed I was right, he thought.

The secret to internal DIALOGUE? The best examples intrigue your reader. They make your reader feel compelled to read on and learn more.

Anyone care to share any tips they’ve learned about internal dialogue? I’d love to hear them.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


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  1. Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, but I wish to say
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  2. When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the image of a user in his/her mind that
    how a user can be aware of it. So that’s why this paragraph is amazing. Thanks!

  3. Was looking for advice on how to format an internal monologue and came away with a much deeper understanding of the art of writing. Thanks :-)

  4. [...] caption wins some great advice about writing a character’s internal monologue, which I obviously have not taken. Good [...]

  5. I think the true art of the monologue has been lost over time. I would love to read something as compelling as “To be or not to be…” in modern literature. Could you suggest something that could change my thinking? As far as rules, I’m all for breaking them as long as you remain honest to your heart and your story’s character. For example, what if your character’s thoughts were somewhat disjointed with both the action and his/hers speech patterns? That in itself could be informative and interesting… Am I wrong?

  6. Great advice! I really needed these tips.

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