From Flat to Fleshed-out

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

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2 thoughts on “From Flat to Fleshed-out

  1. Thank you for Having this Very Informative Site. How Can We start another workshop For Various Ideas? For example Iam Doing Comedy

    and I have many Skills , with the deep desire to share my talents with others , as well as be directed by the professionals in the Same Industry. Thank you in advance for your Input …Jay Mather

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  2. Hello, Jay, and thank you.
    I will be starting the Fiction Writing classes again in YowNow when it opens. The target date is sometime in September. I may hold alternate classes in other online worlds, but any decisions on that is on hold until fall.
    Keep checking back here; when the class day and time is finalized, I will announce it here. This is also where each class’s topic and any out-of-class discussion will take place.

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