Sunday, May 19, 2013

Turning the Private into the Public - Games with Internal Monologue

It's getting to be summer here in Santa Fe and I'm having a lovely time getting our patios all set up for long hours of enjoyment.

This week's topic is Internal Monologue: What it reveals about your POV character. I admit I felt a little frisson of pleasure when I saw it, though I'm quite sure I didn't suggest this one. See, I'm the Queen of Internal Monologue.

Or, at least, my heroine from the Covenant of Thorns series, Gwynn, is.

And yes, she's the POV character - which means the story is told from her point of view. It's first person, which is a very close perspective. The reader is essentially riding around in her head, hearing her thoughts. It's a fun way to tell a story, because we discover aspects of the new world she's been plunged into - Faerie - along with her. We are also there when she figures things out, though a smart reader without Gwynn's particular emotional biases or blind spots might get there ahead of her.

A huge part of the story, however, is informed by her internal monologue.

I would have guessed this concept came from theater, but a bit of slapdash Google research reveals that it began as a literary device.

The term interior monologue is often used interchangeably with stream of consciousness. But while an interior monologue may mirror all the half thoughts, impressions, and associations that impinge upon the character’s consciousness, it may also be restricted to an organized presentation of that character’s rational thoughts. Closely related to the soliloquy and dramatic monologue, the interior monologue was first used extensively by Édouard Dujardin in Les Lauriers sont coupés (1887; We’ll to the Woods No More) and later became a characteristic device of 20th-century psychological novels. (
 It is notable that it's a more recent device. Jane Austen's novels, for example, are interesting in that they have practically no internal monologue. The reader gathers how the people think and feel from their actions and what they do and don't say. But they don't ruminate on their feelings.

Gwynn, however, is a thoughtful person. And by that I mean, full of thoughts. She's an academic, a scientist, and she's trained herself to be analytical, to take notes and examine the world from an objective standpoint. As many "in-their-heads" people do, her thoughts run All The Time. It's nearly impossible for her to shut it off.

Amusingly - to me as an author, though it's infuriating for her as a character - in Faerie, her thoughts can be overheard. Particularly by her would-be lover and nemesis, Rogue. If she's not careful, which can happen when she's either emotionally involved or really interested in something - which amounts to the same thing, really - she gets "loud."

And he calls her on it.

It's a fun way to play with her subtext, which should be available only to her and to us, her readers and voyeurs. Instead of being private, it becomes public, at least to Rogue, who uses every advantage he can to sneak inside her motivations and direct them towards his own ends.

Or maybe he just wants to understand her better.

At any rate, it's one of those fun author-games to play, that often leaves me chortling as I wiggle in my seat.

Who says an author's life isn't glamorous??


  1. Ha! If my thoughts could be heard I am sure I would be drawn and quartered after being handed bouquets of roses. Jumpy thoughts...imagine the dog in the movie UP. Squirrel!

    I love reading first person, if done well. Who wouldn't have fun peeking into the thoughts of someone else? And since I am lacking the talent of telepathy I guess I have to stick to reading 1st person POV books :)

  2. It's so fun imagining how our thoughts would sound to others. Love your imagery there!