Interior monologue is really no mystery. It is the expression of a character’s thoughts, feelings, and impressions in a narrative. It is a way to present a character’s inner emotions and sensations to the reader. The written word is the only method that allows readers of fiction to know a character’s thoughts directly. It’s not possible in movies or radio broadcasts. We can only guess what the character is thinking based on his comments and body language. This ability to experience what life is like inside a fictional character’s head, witnessing everything they think and feeling everything they feel, is one of the main reasons people read fiction. This ability is one of the huge advantages of novels and short stories.
Interior monologues can be short—just a quick line of thought, or long—a paragraph or even a few pages. Short interior monologues are best placed in the middle of scenes. Long interior monologues work best during interludes between scenes.
There are two kinds of interior monologues, direct and indirect. In direct monologues there is no author intrusion. The reader is overhearing the thoughts flowing directly through the characters mind. Indirect monologues are selected and narrated by the author with his evaluative comments.
Writing interior monologues is no mystery. Here are some basic strategies:
• Never use quotation marks around a character’s thoughts.
• Place short interior monologues in scenes where the action and dialogue in novels take place. It’s important not to disrupt the action in the scene. One or two lines of thought will not slow the pace of the story.
• Save the long interior monologues for the interludes in which the action has slowed and the character is taking time to review what happened in the previous scene and to generate his next action plan. Character pondering may take several paragraphs or even a few pages.
• Most novels are written in third person past tense. In this case, italicizing interior monologue is not necessary. When both the thought and the text surrounding it are in the same voice and tense there is no need for italics. In addition, italics are difficult to read. On rare occasions italics can be used to emphasize a character’s thoughts.
• Using tags such as “she thought” and “he wondered” is usually not necessary. When the narration is close and intimate, and the language is beginning to approximate the viewpoint character’s own speaking voice, tags won’t be necessary.
• It’s important to make it clear that the words are the character’s thoughts, and not the narrator’s words.
Interior monologue is a great tool for sharing your character’s inner emotions and sensations with your readers.