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Can we discuss internal voice? (1 Viewer)

piperofyork

Friends of WF
It seems that internal voice has become quite popular.

Hmm…they might dispute this outright, he thought.

I’m curious: do you tend to think that – more often than not – internal voice enhances the reading experience or detracts from it?

They’ll probably say it just depends.

If you tend to think it enhances the reading experience, what are the signs of skillful use of internal voice?

Just end the post. They get the idea.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Like a lot of things, it's useful if not overdone. And like a lot of things, there's probably no hard and fast rule to cover every situation. It can sometimes be camouflaged in throwaway lines of dialogue (which I've done before). Opinions will vary on whether that's useful of even advisable.

Looking at something I wrote and having it jump out at me is usually an indicator that a particular piece might be better served in first-person than third.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Yeah, "it depends". :)

In my normal third person, I frequently tell you what characters are thinking, but I don't internal dialogue it.

In my sci fi last year, the MC--several times--imagines conversations with his dead mentor. Sometimes it's a memory of an actual conversation, and sometimes he's imagining his mentor discussing a current problem with him ... but the MC's dialogue is internal, and the mentor's conversation is always something he remembers him saying that applies to the current problem.

Of course, the first person I completed earlier this year is rife with internal dialogue, as is the one I'm writing now.

In the collaboration PiP and I are doing, I'm telling you what my MC is thinking, but sometimes he "thinks aloud", so that's kind of like internal dialogue except it's not. Occasionally he's overheard, to his chagrin.
 

Garlith

Member
Something I've learned to repeat to myself over and over is "show, don't tell."

Depending on the writing and the character, I've felt inner dialogue both make or break a page for me. Personally, if a character is particularly introspective, I feel some inner dialog is is nice to portray how the character processes the world around them. After setting that initial tone, start transitioning to what the character does or focuses on, and hopefully the reader will be able to start piecing together what the character is thinking without having to be told every time.

A character who is more prone to taking action, though? No need for inner dialogue when their choices speak louder than any meaningless words tumbling around in their head. Once you've established who a character is and how they act, choosing to not take an action can have an equally strong impact on the situation.

Once the writer can "feel" your character, they should be able to start filling in the blanks that would be inner dialogue.

(Not to say inner dialogue is bad of course! Just another tool that may or may not have a place depending on what you're writing.)

In one of the books I read there was a character who always repeated the same thing to himself over and over in his head, and when a later chapter switched to a different character, they were watching said character just shaking his head and muttering and I as a reader knew exactly what it was he was muttering, haha. Inner dialogue is definitely a useful writing tool, it's just hard for me to remember the terms I'm looking for... Joe Abercrombie's books did it well for me.
 
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KatPC

Senior Member
Shall I participate in this conversation? Or sit back idly, pondering (again) at the thoughts of the better?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Just a personal preference - when writing in close exclusive perception, either first or third limited, adding he/she thought drives me crazy. I mean, we're already in the character's head so we know who is thinking, unless it's some kind of ESP thing... which would be different.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
It depends on what that internal dialogue is. I certainly wouldn't italicise the bulk of it, not in 3rd person limited at least, which is what I nearly always write in. I treat it as you would 1st person and so should everyone IMO.

He pulled his face from the sand and coughed dust, both eyes now fixed on the steer and its unfathomable catch. He placed his palms on the sandstone at his back and levered himself up, the vestige of the dream still battling a foggy mind. How could this be? He’d secured the handkerchief as always, and yet, there it was, signalling its escape.

Versus:

He pulled his face from the sand and coughed dust, both eyes now fixed on the steer and its unfathomable catch. He placed his palms on the sandstone at his back and levered himself up, the vestige of the dream still battling a foggy mind. How could this be? he thought. He’d secured the handkerchief as always, and yet, there it was, signalling its escape.

As for the show don't tell aspect of it, I believe I've sent myself down a rabbit hole with this idea. There's something to be said about directly inhabiting a protag's or antag's head, regardless of whether you show and not tell. I think it's important to keep 'show don't tell' uppermost in your mind though. It forces you to think about setting, body language and dialogue. But it can mean you overlook something that offers another depth.

With tenderness, she reached down and cupped one diner’s face, titled it to meet her gaze, its heavy lids barely concealing the heaven in its head, tongue-tip flicking thin air. She witnessed her power in that angelic face and it pleased her greatly. Even though the loyalty on display wasn’t entirely of their own making, these creatures, as lowly as they appeared, had forsaken a simple life in favour of depravity and succour. There was nobility in that. To know ones place and to seek it out without regard for the possible outcome. She let it lick her thumb for a while and then, with the same care she’d taken it up, lowered it back down to continue its ministrations, her freed hand now tracing a nail around the gooseflesh of her breast.

The original was without the red inked addition. There's no way I could convey in body language her belief system and dialogue would have felt silly in the context of the scene.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Just a personal preference - when writing in close exclusive perception, either first or third limited, adding he/she thought drives me crazy. I mean, we're already in the character's head so we know who is thinking, unless it's some kind of ESP thing... which would be different.
You need an adverb in there to spice it up!

'I'm sleepy,' he thought drowsily.

'Damn it. I can't find my scissors,' she thought scatterbrainedly ... and thus her husband lived for at least one more day ... or until the next time he demanded, "Bring me a sammich!"

;-)
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
You need an adverb in there to spice it up!

'I'm sleepy,' he thought drowsily.

'Damn it. I can't find my scissors,' she thought scatterbrainedly ... and thus her husband lived for at least one more day ... or until the next time he demanded, "Bring me a sammich!"

;-)
Adverbs also boost word count fabulously.
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
I think that each piece ought to have a "voice" of its own, so to speak, and as long as the various elements are in-line with that, you probably won't struggle. He thought largely becomes a problem in the dreaded third-person omniscient, where it signifies either a) we are exiting narrative voice and entering character voice (which can be problematic if executed poorly) or b) a work deriving its whole from a multitude of vocal parts. Either way, things can get very difficult, because you are attempting to balance multiple voices in the same piece. I'm not saying you shouldn't try and do this. I'm just saying it's hard.

indianroads is right that he thought in limited POV is almost always redundant.
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
I would have to agree with BDF; internal voice is okay when done in moderation.
It is a good way to further illustrate the character without extensive narration.
If you try to write it both ways (internal vs 3rd person narration) you will find that the latter takes more words to achieve the same level of illustration.
Internal voice gets us into the character's thinking, reveals how they really feel, and does it with economy.
Also, it is a nice way to break up all the 3rd person narration.

But like anything, it can be overdone.
 
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