Friday, April 10, 2015

Internal Dialogue.

Here's a grammar tip on Internal dialogue:

I don't know why but I struggle knowing how to format internal dialogue in my writing. While writing her first novel, Mary often felt confused about how she should portray her character's innermost thoughts.

There you go. That should be a good example of proper use and formatting of internal dialogue in a piece of writing. What is internal dialogue? and Why? How? do we use it in our writing? Well, let's find out exactly . . .

First, the definition.

I liked this definition according to
Internal dialogue (or Inner dialogue) is simply the speech of a character to himself. He hears it and the reader hears it, but other characters have no idea what's going on in his head. It's the same for us and our thoughts. Unless we reveal them, no one knows what we're thinking.

But did you know that there are two different types of internal dialogue?

Direct internal dialogue indicates actual quotes coming from the character.
Indirect internal dialogue would be the character's thoughts and actions without it being an actual quote.

For example:

Direct:  Walton is the kindest man I know. I wish he would ask me on a date.

Indirect: The kindness Walton showed made me wish he would ask me on a date.

Now on to formatting. This can get tricky because there are several different ways you can format internal dialogue in your writing. I'll first address what looks to be the most common and easiest way according to the research I have done.

Italics is recognized as the most common way to indicate direct internal thought. Using italics creates greater narrative distance, so most people use this format. Typically you would only italicize direct internal dialogue not indirect. If you notice in the above example, I italicized the direct internal thought but not the indirect. Here is another example of using both direct and indirect and how you would format it.

Both indirect and direct (1st person): Even though he was late for class, Walton showed a unique kindness to me when I tripped and my papers flew down the stairs. I wish he would ask me on a date.

This was written in first person but the same thing would apply for third person.

Third person: Even thought he was late for class, Walton showed a unique kindness to Lucy when she tripped and her papers flew down the stairs. I wish he would ask me on a date.

A couple of things to note in this last example. First, the direct internal thought was changed to first person. If your character is having an internal thought, they wouldn't think in third person (unless maybe your character is extremely egocentric, I guess). Second, the direct internal thought was changed to be in present tense. If your character is having a direct quote come from their head, they are not going to think about things in the past tense. This is hard to explain but to me, makes sense.

Other formatting options: 
Quotation marks: Occasionally, you will see people use quotation marks to indicate thoughts. This is not commonly used but if you do decide to use quotation marks, I would highly suggest adding tags. A very few people do not use tags but it could get very confusing if you don't.

Tags: Tags define who is speaking and indicates that it is a thought. My personal opinion is that they are unnecessary and it tends to take a reader out of the story but it may be a style choice you want to make. If you do use them, here are a few rules:
When you italicize your internal dialogue remember that you do not italicize the tag. Here is an example using italics and tags:

Walton is the kindest man I know, she thought. I wish he would ask me on a date.

Paragraphs: One final thought about formatting is to create new paragraphs. From my research, it is debatable whether you should or should not create a new paragraph when adding internal dialogue. Ultimately, you don't have to but you can if you want. It seems like direct internal dialogue should be treated similarly to regular dialogue. 

When? and Why? to use internal dialogue.
Finally, I'd like to address when and why to use Direct Internal Dialogue. 

This part is completely opinion but I love reading direct internal thoughts when used correctly. To me, it allows a deeper understanding, helps make a personal connection with the character, and allows for a distinct voice to come through.

Here are some great thoughts from

"Most fiction is character driven, and I'm convinced that readers' most-loved fiction is that which allows us to delve into the innermost thoughts of its characters, in the process finding moments of recognition--the chance to recognize ourselves in fictional characters and identify with them on multiple levels--and discovering more about ourselves. We read fiction to see ourselves reflected back, both the good and the bad, and we're able to do that when authors allow us into the deepest recesses of their characters' minds.

And so, if you think it's not important to reveal your characters' deep thoughts, you're missing out on an opportunity unique among all the art forms to connect deeply with your audience, your readers. The success of your book will hinge on connecting with your readers, and writing meaningful inner monologue will be one of the most important things you can do to ensure this connection is made."

I completely agree with Arlene Prunkl's statement. I think we need to remember how the internal dialogue creates that connection with our readers and allows readers to relate to our story. Whether the connection happens through the good, bad, or the ugly in our lives, it's important as human beings to understand that we are not alone in this world.

There are many purposes behind when and why you might use internal dialogue but here are a couple of suggestions/thoughts to remember.
-Remember that the dialogue should either build character or help along your plot.
-Refrain from using direct internal dialogue too much but recognize how succinct it can allow information to be given.
-Above all else, remember to be consistent!!  If you use italicized direct internal dialogue four times in the first chapter, you should probably try to do about the same in each subsequent chapter. However you format it the first time, remain doing the same throughout the remaining text.

Thanks for reading along!  And don't forget to JUST WRITE SOMETHING!