Inner dialogue

Inner dialogue, when is there too much or too little and how should it be used in our writing?

This still a question I ask myself, which I did again after reading another writer’s comments on his blog.

Personally, I like inner dialogue, probably because I talk to myself a lot. I also believe that inner dialogue helps the reader get to know who the character is, what the emotional stakes are and hopefully make them appear more real, rather than just words on a page.

For instance, our hero must maintain his or her strong, unflappable, super cool persona. They are who the world looks up to after all. For example, in the beginning of a story, our hero prevents a volcano from erupting and therefore saves countless lives and property. Hooray. But then he or she learns their action created an earthquake somewhere else. One which caused horrible death and destruction. Here are two basic examples of how inner conversations can change what is written.

On his triumphant return, X puffed his chest with pride and looked back towards the now quiet cinder cone of the volcano. Standing there, he waited for people to congratulate him, but instead, nobody noticed him, they all stood huddled in groups or sat on the ground with shocked faces, filled with sorrow and anger. Yet apart from the odd thank you, X, was ignored. When he saw his new sidekick, X waved him over and asked what was their problem. After a brief conversation about an earthquake across the valley, X turned on his heel, glared at the smoking mountain and stormed off.

In the above instance, I told you, the reader, in a vague sense, about the scene but left in open about why the hero stormed off or how he ‘felt’. Now below, I added some inner dialogue so you can get a sense of the emotional stakes with our hero. Who you might still think is a dick, but now you know why.

X puffed his chest with pride and looked back towards the now quiet cinder cone of the volcano. Good job X now the village will have nothing to worry about. When no one came up to congratulate him, X moved towards the crowded plaza. With a frown, he stared in confusion at the people huddled in groups or sitting on the ground with shocked faces. Come on people. what’s the matter? Nobody died and I just saved your town. So, a thank you would be good. When he saw his new sidekick, X waved him over and learns of the earthquake. A conversation follows to reveal why the earthquake happened. Hero X storms from the square. Did I do the wrong thing? But how could I have done it differently? He paused at the edge of town to glare at the smoking mountain. What’s the point of haveing these powers if people still die?

For me, it doesn’t matter if the hero is arrogant and self-righteous or naive and still coming to grips with their powers. Why? Because there is always emotional content behind the outward persona. So, in my opinion, the inner dialogue should give us characters who will seem more believable. But, like many things in writing, styles have changed over time and as a result, there are many mixed thoughts and opinions. I suppose, in the end, it will be the readers who determine what they want and it will be the writers who must adapt.

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