Marcy Kennedy reports:
"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...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...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...All the techniques that we can use for making dialogue sound more natural—like sentence fragments, dropped words, and contractions—should also be used in internal dialogue. A quick way to check for this is to imagine quotation marks around your internalization. If your character said this out loud, would it sound natural or would it sound strange and awkward? (For the really personal items, imagine they’re speaking to their therapist.) If you’re not sure, speak them aloud yourself. You can change the tense to first person from third person if you need to. If it sounds fine in first person, it’s also fine the way you’ve written it in third person...Internal dialogue is your point-of-view character thinking to themselves, so it needs to sound as much like them as their spoken dialogue. What words would your character (rather than you) use in this situation?...Whatever your character’s personality, it should come through in their internalization just as much—or more—than it does in their spoken dialogue and actions...Direct internal dialogue is dialogue that’s written in first person, present tense...Because direct internal dialogue is in first person, present tense—even when we’re writing in a third person, past tense story—we need to italicize it. But the italics draw a lot of attention to it. Most internal dialogue can be written as indirect internal dialogue (where we stay in the same person and tense as the story)...Emphasizing a thought through direct internal dialogue should be done sparingly, when we really need to draw attention to an important thought. It’s like exclamation marks. They lose their oomph if you pepper your pages with them...You might occasionally hear someone complain about internal dialogue—there’s too much of it or it isn’t advancing the story. What they’re usually complaining about is actually repetitious internal dialogue. Repetitious internal dialogue makes for boring, flabby reading...What we want to do instead is to use one or the other (not both) or to add some variety to either the internal dialogue or action...Or we could add variety by showing that the way our character imagined something happening is very different from the way it actually happens...It might seem obvious, but we also shouldn’t double up on what’s said in internal dialogue and in spoken dialogue...The fix for this involves us deciding where that dialogue actually needs to be—inside or outside."
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