5 Tips for writing Internal Monologue

Even already skilled writers struggle with certain things when they create stories, write novels, or engage in character development. Unfortunately, the occasions and reasons for such a struggle differ from story to story, from poem to poem, from every piece of writing to the other. Next to spelling and grammar, which can easily be checked, those problems often arose when it comes to content or style.

We cannot help you to come up with interesting ideas for the content of your story (even though there are some tips for writing inspiration or for generally improving your writing), but we can help you to avoid some common or basic mistakes during the writing process. And we can provide you with tips how to better your writing when it comes to certain things.


Today, we want to look at the topic of Internal Monologues.


The Problem with Internal Monologues

Do's and Don'ts of Internal Monologue
Image by Sarah Reid http://bit.ly/1ps6yk8


Internal monologues can be very important to get readers involved with your characters. They set the mood your character is in, and clarify his or her mindset without other characters in the book knowing what your protagonist is thinking.


Yet, unfortunately, internal monologues are one of the most misused and overused elements in story telling. Cardinal mistakes like endless rambling and the interruption of action can take not only the speed and flow from a story, but also the will of the reader to continue with a story that is put on hold too many times for excessive thinking of the character(s).

On the other hand, avoiding internal monologues takes important layers away from a story, making the character less emotionally sizable for the reader – and the reader wants to feel with or for your character, why else would one go on reading?


What is essential is a) a good balance between internal monologues and actual happenings and dialogues, and b) the proper time to use internal monologues as an instrument to expedite the story.


1. The right time for Internal Monologues

Starting out with internal monologue may inform your readers about your character’s mindset and opinions right away, yet it’s not a really good start for a story. You want your readers to get hooked and engage in the happenings right away, thus start out with a juicy slice of action! Then, when your readers are hooked, you can start elaborating about the role of your character in all this, and why he or she acts the way he or she does.

Yet, when you are about to reach your climax, you should certainly not interrupt the scene only to explain a characters relation to the antagonist, or how your protagonist attained his or her fighting skills. When it’s time for action, your reader wants action, so make sure that necessary information has been given beforehand.


2. Paint a Mental Picture

Don’t just state what your character is feeling. Add some distinct details to paint a mental picture for your readers. Sometimes, a simple “He’s angry” has to suffice, yes, but what brings the feelings of your character across even better is some showing instead of just telling. “His fists clenched as his heart began to race, anger flooding his body as he got ready to strike.”

An interesting way to do so is by “acting out” the childhood stories or the first meeting of your character and his or her love interest. Change the perspective and your writing style from third to first-person and use this tool to familiarize the reader with your character.


3. Know when to avoid Internal Monologue

While internal monologues can reveal a lot about your character, it is much more exciting for the reader to have your character reveal internal information to someone else. If you can, replace internal monologue by actual dialogue, adding another layer to the interaction between characters. The reactions of the second character can add to the information spilled.

Yet, make sure you don’t let characters talk about what they know of each other already anyway. The information shared should be new for the conversation partner as well.


4. Don’t spill everything

Keep some of the things your character thinks and feel secret. By only giving out necessary and important chunks of information, the readers will stay intrigued, wanting to know more and more, enjoying every little reveal. You don’t have to pack one chunk of internal monologue with the character’s whole childhood, beliefs, or feelings for another character. Place information like bait, giving the reader what he needs to know, but leave him yearning for more.


5. The perfect Balance

While internal monologue can add to a story and get your audience engaged with the protagonist, you have to be aware that what people really want to read are action and dialogues. Once you’re done writing, browse your script for pages filled with text and rarely any cuts. Those are not only hard to read, but are prone to contain rambling that could be cut down.

The rule of thumb here is that internal monologue should serve to give the reader information he needs but is already known to other characters or should stay a secret in the story. This information should add to your dialogues and action scenes, and not replace them!


If you keep these 5 tips in mind and at heart, your usage of internal monologues and thus your stories will improve greatly! Furthermore, let this piece of advice bring your attention how your favorite authors treat the topic. Check out how internal monologue is used in the books you like to read or are currently reading, and find out what they did right, and what they did wrong.