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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Internal Dialogue

I've been judging contest entries the last couple of weeks, and one particular problem jumped out at me in several of the manuscripts--mistakes with internal dialogue. It's been mixed in with narrative, with no way to discern it from the rest of the paragraph. Some of it has been in past tense and/or tagged, as if it's simply part of the narrative but in the character's head. Less frustrating, one entry had all would-be italicized words underlined.

Let's tackle the minor issue first...
Underlining internal dialogue and other words meant to be italicized is old school. With digital formatting, publishers now expect to see italics where the writer wants italics. Sure, you can probably get away with underlining, but why not show editors, agents, and contest judges you're up to date with what's going on in the publishing world?

Next...
Internal dialogue follows one of the same rules as dialogue. Write it as if it's being spoken in the POV character's mind. Use present tense, but NEVER use dialogue tags with internal dialogue. They aren't necessary. The italics and tense show the reader these are unspoken thoughts by the POV character.

Example:
Tagged--I'm going to wring her pretty little neck he thought to himself.
Untagged (correct)--I'm going to wring her pretty little neck.

We don't need "he thought to himself" since we already know he's thinking to himself. That's what internal dialogue is.

Past Tense--I didn't have time to go chasing after her.
Present Tense (correct)--I don't have time to go chasing after her.

Get inside the POV character's head. If you were thinking to yourself, you wouldn't do it in past tense unless it's something you've already done.

Last...

Don't bury internal dialogue in narrative. Either treat it as dialogue, giving it its own paragraph or put it in the same paragraph with the POV character's action or dialogue. Be sure to use italics!

Example:
Buried--Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path. She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence. I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.

In paragraph format (*** denotes paragraphs)--
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck.
***He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.
OR
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.
OR
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her.
***"Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.

The action has much better flow when using paragraph format. The reader can easily tell who the POV character is and that he's thinking as he's moving.

As with all POV-related writing issues, remember to stay in your character's head. Be the character!

Hmm...How about we tackle one of the most controversial aspects of writing next week--Plotter or Pantser!

~I'll also be giving away pdf copies of Playing in the Raine to five commentors!!!~

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

2 comments:

  1. I wish I had a dime for every time I've read a book with a tag on internal dialog. Bugs me to death!
    Good examples!

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