Interior Monologues in Writing

The internal/interior monologue is possibly one of the least used points of view these days. An internal monologue is something associated more with the soliloquy of the theatre than a stand alone piece of literature.

“Points of View: an Anthology of Short Stories” is published in sections based on point of view.  The editors James Moffet and Kenneth McElheny say an internal monologue is like ‘overhearing someone’s thoughts’. They suggest three different scenarios which facilitate an internal monologue:

  • the narrator is reacting to his immediate surroundings – the monologue tells the story of what is going on.
  • the narrator presents their thoughts as memories – the monologue review past events and connects them with present ones.
  • the narrator’s train of thoughts are neither a record of the present nor a recollection of the past – the monologue is purely a reflection, and in itself, the story.

While few short stories are compromised entirely of a monologue, many writers use this point of view in a limited capacity. Stephen King’s “The Shining” utilises the internal monologue–in tiny snippets, rather than in large slabs–delineated from the rest of the narrative, through the use of brackets.

He closed his eyes and all the old phrases began to parade through his mnd, it seemed there must be hundreds of them.

(creaking up not playing with a full deck lostya marbles guy just went looney tunes he went up and over the hig side went bananas lost his football went crackers nuts half a seabag)

All meaning the same thing: losing your mind.

“No,” he whimpered, hardly aware that he had been reduced to this, whimpering with his eyes shut like a child. “Oh no, God. Please, God no.”

Monologues also appear in the guise of diary entries and letters, which perhaps are more palatable to a reader for large slabs of introspection.

Two stories in Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book are excellent examples of the use of diary entries as monologue pieces. Paul Servini’s uses the diary entry to good effect in his story “Discovery”, juxtaposing the assured, business-like Elizabeth, with her less secure inner self.

What now?

The last ten years of my life have been spent trying to forge a career in business. Yet, it was more than a career at stake. I was looking for an identity after Robin. I found it. The cost was high but I paid it willingly because it made me into someone. I needed that. So I closed my eyes and went for it. Today, someone opened my eyes and I recoiled.

Is this really what I’ve become? And is there any way out?

Jasmine Gallant’s “Not My Name” is told entirely through diary entries. Her narrator’s deteriorating mental condition is expressed in the confusion of the tenses – his memories are told in the present tense and his every day observations in the past tense. He alternates between observing the mundane now and the terrifying past.

I am so cold—huddled at my little desk, pounding on this keyboard— I feel the breath rush out of my lungs, freezing the air in front of me. A coffee sits beside me, its warmth leaks away. A cigarette smokes lazily in the ashtray. Rings drift to the ceiling like a young girl’s hair. Stray books and clothes have a life of their own and come to rest wherever they find space in our small, cramped living room.

Why do I write these things?

These things of no importance?

While internal monologues give us an unparalleled intimate view into a character’s life, thoughts and feelings, it is a fairly limited approach not to mention a biased one.

Interior monologues can also be tough to articulate authentically. Blair Hurley of The Creative Writing Corner, says the challenge with writing interior monologues is two fold:

  • thinking often does not occur in grammatically correct sentences. We don’t think in big words. Our thoughts are often broken and disjointed. Authentic-sounding interior dialogue needs to capture the essence of this, however…
  • if we are too authentic and accurately capture what thought is really like, we end up with an  incomprehensible quagmire of text.

Hurley says for a monologue to be touching and effective it needs balance.

While I wasn’t a great fan of Dorothy Parker’s “But the One on the Right” she does strike a working balance between cohesive expression and the sporadic, randomness of thought. It was just a shame I didn’t really care too much about the situation in which her protagonist finds herself (I’m not one for whinging which forms a fair chunk of the monologue.) Having said that, it comes with an excellent ending and a good example of how one might include direct speech into an interior monologue.

We all like a challenge don’t we?

March’s writing challenge is to spend 10 minutes writing a simple interior monologue. How easy is it to replicate your thoughts or the thoughts of a character in an authentic manner, but also allowing the reader ‘in’? A bit like trying to transpose Shakespeare into text speak?

This blog post first published on the Write Anything website March 1st 2010

#71 Chinese Whispers

After dinner tonight I sat down to look at some photographs in The Australian’s weekend magazine from a few weekends ago. Reading an article about the apparently intrinsic need for humans to believe in a castrophic end, I came along a reference to “chinese whispers”. The first of many I am sure.

Chinese Whisperings Take Five

As part of the publicity for Chinese Whisperings, Paul and I are asking each of the writers involved to answer five questions, the answers for which will run in a featured writer section called “Take Five” (yeah not terribly original I know!) in the right side bar, changing ever five or so days.

With Dale on the job behind the scenes building the structure for the website (kudos to you Dale!) and helping to tweak the template and design … it is time to start plugging in the information.

Paul had the brilliant idea that as first writer on the project I got first go at being the featured writer – which means I get my mug on the front page and in the funky side bar box.  While I’ve written up my bio, and my reflections on being part of the project, I’m yet to write up my questions, which are:

  • Pick one book from each decade of your life. Who would you like to give that book to and why?
  • Do you have a favourite place to write? If so where is it?
  • What is the worst “knock” you’ve had to recover from as a writer?
  • When do you normally do your writing? What do you most like/dislike about writing then?
  • What is the easiest element of writing for you? What is the hardest?

I have to admit I have been procrastinating from writing the answers – but I can procrastinate no longer!

And on the topic of procrastination – tomorrow is also the day to write up the last bits of the basic web content for Chinese Whisperings.  So if you happen by here and there’s something burning you want to know about Chinese Whisperings – leave your question in the comment box and I’ll ensure it gets answered on the website.

Chinese Whisperings Questions

For Chinese Whisperings we’ve compiled a list of 25 questions from which we’re asking our writers to choose five to answer in our Featured Writer section.  I could easily answer all twenty plus questions  if I had the time and the inclination to do so … but that’s not the point.

I’m listing the questions here and am going to ask my readers, Facebook friends and Twitter mates if they’ll help me choose the five questions I’ll answer.

So from the list which five questions would you like to see me answer for Chinese Whisperings?  Leave your selection in the comments section.

Chinese Whisperings “Take Five” Question List

1.    Pick one book from each decade of your life. Who would you like to give that book to and why?

2.    Which book do you wish you had written?

3.    Would you rather have critical acclaim, or commercial success?

4.    What was the first story you remember doing for the sheer joy of writing (ie. It wasn’t a school project or homework!) and how old were you?

5.    Pick one book from each decade of your life. Who would you like to give that book to and why?

6.    What was it that you read that made you want to write your own fiction? Why do you think it had that effect on you?

7.    Looking at the fiction you’ve written to date, what kind of things does your work explore?

8.    Do you write for a living or do you have a day job?

9.    What do you love about writing?

10.    Are there any other writers in your family?

11.    What was the last book you read and why did you choose it?

12.    What book are you currently reading? What do you like/hate most about it?

13.    What is your favourite short story and why?

14.    Do you have a favourite place to write?  If so where is it?

15.    What has been your favourite story to write to date?

16.    Where do you get your inspiration for stories and characters?

17.    Which has been your favourite character to bring to life?  What is it about that character you are most drawn to?

18.    What is the worst “knock” you’ve had to recover from as a writer?

19.    Who have been your mentors?

20.    When do you normally do your writing? What do you most like/dislike about writing then?

21.    If you could meet any published writer (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

22.    Who are your favourite authors and why?

23.    If you could trade places with any fictional character (yours or someone else’s) who would it be and why?

24.    What is the easiest element of writing for you? What is the hardest?

25.    What advice would you gift your 18 year old self about writing?