A Note About Internal Dialogue
Susan M. Baganz
Author & Acquisitions Editor
As an editor I’ve seen the use of internal dialogue used well, and not so well. So I figured it is time I wrote about this. Mostly for my own sanity so authors don’t make me lose more hair in correcting this issue. I’m not expert on this but bear with me. . .
Internal dialogue is NOT deep point of view. Let’s be clear on this. Just because you put something in italics and change the person and tense doesn’t make it deep point of view. (that’s a different blog post—or book).
Here is an instance from an upcoming historical where I used internal dialogue that should just be thoughts:
Phillip’s eyes narrowed as he considered her words. Was this a manipulation? Surely she wasn’t trying to trap him into marriage herself, was she? From what he understood . . .
He is thinking these things but he’s not really talking to himself.
Here’s another from that same manuscript:
Any chance of keeping Beth out of the papers and her situation hushed up was moot. Beth? Since when did he start thinking of her as Beth? He grinned at his own foolishness . . .
Here again, these are mere thoughts. The first Beth could be an internal dialogue and italicized but ideally, none of it should be. He’s just thinking, not talking to himself.
Internal dialogue IS the way someone talks to themselves in their mind. It is not their thoughts. Those may be prolific. The reality is we don’t often speak directly to ourselves silently. This is entirely different from the unspoken but powerful messages that unconsciously run through our minds as referenced in psychology. When we are aware of them and think them to ourselves—then they become internal dialogue.
Here’s an example from Salsa & Speed Bumps:
After the singing was done, Stephanie jotted notes in her bulletin and doodled as her mind wandered from Pastor Andrew’s message to the possible confrontation with Luis that might be forthcoming. She willed herself to take deep breaths.
It was just a nightmare.
It was just a nightmare.
It was just a nightmare.
“Are you okay, Steph?” Renata leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“Terrified, but I’ll be fine.”
Here she really is speaking to herself. It’s not a mere thought. She’s reassuring herself that her nightmare was not reality to calm herself.
Internal dialogue CAN be silent prayers. In essence you are talking to God but it’s written the same way. Italicized font. Here’s an example from my upcomingnovella The Baron’s Blunder:
“He is blessed in his friends.”
“Blessed? Not so sure about that. Lucky, perhaps.”
“Someday you’ll find the Lord worthy of your trust and your heart.” Henri whispered and then remained quiet for the rest of the dance. Lord, show Michael who You are so he could trust in You too.
In first person you won’t have a need for internal dialogue because all your narration is pretty much in the character’s head. It can be somewhat of a stream of consciousness type of thing. This example is from a short story of mine called My Beautiful Nightmare (from a compilation called Little Bits O’ Love):
I can’t believe I did something so stinkin’ stupid. I was out riding my bike as usual. Kind of my way to feel the wind in my face and to move faster than I would if I walked and got the benefit of some exercise. Not that it’s changed my waistline, mind you. If I could only give up the potato chips and M&M’s I’d fare much better. But regardless, I was riding my bike and enjoying the scenery and somehow did not see the car parked right in my way. As in right. In. My. Way.
Third person past tense is where I see the most problems with this concept. Here are a few examples:
This is an instance where I did it WRONG from the rough draft of a story I’m working on right now:
He grinned and bent down to cover his lips over hers savoring the softness of her body against his and the acceptance and love she poured into that kiss. Everything dormant in him for the past four years roared to life. What are you doing? He stepped back, holding her arms to steady her.
“Wow, Piper. You fight dirty. Didn’t expect guerilla warfare on home turf.”
I’m correcting that to: What am I doing? Here the issue is that he can say that to himself but it should be in first person, not 3rd.
Here are some correct uses of internal dialogue (other than silent prayers).
From Pesto & Potholes:
Tony started the bike, took off and she held on with her arms around him. Dangerous, her mind cautioned. Unavoidable, she answered back, and I’m going to enjoy it while I can.
Here she’s clearly having a conversation with herself.
From Feta & Freeways(Due in September):
She glanced at him again as he slept. He was muscle and poetry. Grace and strength. Everything she ever desired in a man. Get it through your silly heart, girl. He’s not yours and never will be. She backed out of the room, closed the door softly behind her, and locked it.
If I didn’t want that as internal dialogue it would have read: She needed to get it through her silly heart, he wasn’t hers and he never would be.
Some editors would say you should never use internal dialogue. At Prism Book Group we disagree. We love internal dialogue and use it ourselves as authors, however, it should be used sparingly for maximum impact.
Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.
She has published several of her own novels and novellas with Prism Book Group. In her Orchard Hill Romances series: Pesto & Potholes, Salsa & Speed Bumps and soon Feta & Freeways (Sept. 2016). Her historical novellas include: Fragile Blessings and soon The Baron’s Blunder (Aug. 2016). She has published a compilation of short stories and flash fiction in a book titled Little Bits O’ Love.
Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church and also serves as President of the local ACFW WISE chapter (American Christian Fiction Writers – Wisconsin Southeast). Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte. You can learn more by following her blog www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.