bringing life to your characters
Have you ever had a critique partner or editor tell you that your characters lack depth or feel flat? One thing that can cause this problem is a lack of internal monologue. Let the reader inside the character’s head, and reveal what he’s thinking. This can be effective, done correctly.
Consider this opening paragraph, taken from my short story, “Alternate Path,” (published in Deep Magic, July 2005) as an example:
Alcandhor gulped as he entered the conclave chamber. The clan Chiefs sat at the table, their gazes fixed on him. He walked to the end of the table and faced them.
Sorta blah, huh? Flat.
Now, here’s the same opening paragraph, with internal monologue:
Alcandhor gulped as he entered the conclave chamber. The clan Chiefs sat at the table, their gazes fixed on him. What could they want with a mere stripling Ranger having thirteen years? He walked to the end of the table and faced them, his mind racing through possibilities of adventures and pranks, dismissing one then another. He had done nothing wrong, er, very wrong – at least, well, surely they would not call conclave for that. And anyway, that had been more Haladhon’s escapade than his.
Yeah, better, isn’t it? We learn quite a bit about our young protagonist just from one paragraph. (Adorable rascal, isn’t he? Well, maybe I’m prejudiced…)
I think you get the idea – let your reader ‘hear’ your character’s thoughts, the voice inside his head.
However, be careful. You can end up telling instead of showing with this technique. Or using it as a not too clever method of sneaking in an infodump. Also, some writers tend to get carried away and have long paragraphs or even pages of internal monologue – this can end up boring.
So get inside your character’s head then let the rest of us inside, and you will find your character has become more real.
originally published in The Sword Review 2006-08-05