I love the concept of the inner monologue in writing, probably because I’m constantly up in my own head with thoughts and ideas that I might not express vocally. In writing, though, I think it has to be used delicately.
If the conventional narrative of a story is broken up too often with the inner thoughts of the point-of-view (POV) character, then it can feel sloppy. If there are only one or two thoughts spattered within pages and pages of text, however, that can be drudging on the reader, because the POV character’s own commentary may help push the story along.
Using Inner Monologue
I’ve started using the inner monologue in “Jaed and Aston” more and more often, and I think I’ve found a good balance. Each of my sections and chapters uses the third person POV of a select character, so the narrative is essentially following the POV character through every scene, looking over their shoulder at what they’re seeing and experiencing. I then started to incorporate the inner monologue technique to jump directly into the character’s head, giving the reader a glimpse of what they are actually thinking in that moment. It can be done relatively easily:
Sitting silently in their small cabin, Jaed glanced from Aston to her hands in her lap and back. Aston wore a stern look, his chin cocked as he appeared to chew the inside of his lip thoughtfully. Although Aston had never lashed out at her, Jaed sensed that he was still raw with anger. He could not have known what would happen, she hoped, but she did not voice her concerns.
In that section — which I just made up and may end up using in some form — Jaed is clearly nervous. It would have been easy to just say, “Jaed glanced nervously,” but we all know the general rule of creative writing: avoid adverbs in lieu of more detailed descriptions, i.e. Show, Don’t Tell. This is not a strict writing law, of course, but avoiding the use of “nervously” in that first sentence forced me to better explain how Jaed was nervous. In this sense, the inner monologue acts as a sort of replacement for an otherwise simplistic description. Now, Jaed’s anxiety is demonstrated, rather than stated.
Inner Monologue as Deduction
As I was writing out a particularly long POV chapter last night, I was running into the issue of trying to fit in too many clues. It’s nice to pepper hints and little foretellings about where the story might be headed throughout the narrative, but at times it’s simply exhausting for both the writer and the reader.
So I changed it up. One of my peripheral POV characters — who I’m mainly using to provide external context to the main story, but also because I like him — has perceived strange happenings around him to this point in the story. Intriguing conversations with friends, puzzling appearances by others, and a cryptic order are all leading this character down a path that he would not have chosen for himself.
Most of the first few chapters concerning this character are centered around providing these hints to the reader (and the character). But at a certain point, tearing off little breadcrumbs to sprinkle behind just feels tedious.
Instead, I just dropped the whole loaf. In this particular scene, the character was waiting, which is boring for everyone. But he’s resourceful, so he used his downtime to his benefit, trying to piece together his puzzle. I wrote this section using all inner monologue, getting inside the head of the POV character as he ran through his own perceptions to try to find the answer he was looking for.
I’m describing all of this because I had never used inner monologue in this longer form before. Hopefully, it ends up being a nice break from the more conventional expository narrative for readers, providing a direct relation to the character.
Well, my January goals are not looking great from the outside. My word count for “Jaed and Aston” sits at 102,561. I still have a ways to go to reach 120k total for the month, but I’m still confident I can reach that mark.
I have not yet finished one book, so reading two may be a stretch. I’m okay with missing on this one, since I obviously need to devote more time to writing anyway.
And I have not published my review of Kidnap Alice. I’m not quite halfway there. I also need to publish my theme post for January. One of those will definitely come next week! The good news is that I already have my haiku scheduled for Sunday, so there’s that. Be on the lookout for a little twist in the Haiku Sunday series!