(I honestly meant to write this a while ago and it has lingered in my Word document for too long. Again.)
I suspect I am not alone when I say that I find internal monologue a tricky thing. I, having had issues with voice (ironically, the teenage voice escapes me unless I exaggerate the British qualities of my own #totalrunningmonologue), have struggled to know what to do with certain tenses and sincerities and a whole bunch of other random things that make up the reactions to actions surrounding my protagonist(s).
In ‘How Not to Write a Novel’, by Newman and Mittlemark, there are examples of when a character fails to react – and also when she fails to stop reacting. It’s appropriateness.
However, as I experiment with monologue and internalisation, I fear I am erring on the side of overexaggeration.
I have a personal Twitter hashtag that I use to try and express the random thoughts that my mind submits to; it is this I call the #totalrunningmonologue. These are, I guess, my own reactions to the world around me, though maybe so not as extreme as a character’s could be. A few months ago, I posted about my personal internal monologue of thoughts and sayings pressing their ways through my mind – the psychological term is ‘subvocalisation’ – and it occurred to me that this is easily applicable to writing and character-building, namely, in the use of internalised thoughts.
I used to use this technique all the time, especially as I wrote a lot in first person when I started writing than when I write now; it was a handy way of having my teen narrator snap at someone inside her head.
‘Inspector Leonard stood, with two burly male police-guards beside him; they were giving me that unimpressed glance, as though it had always been my intention to take over the case.
I’m not ‘taking anything over’! I added to myself, taking my eyes off Mr. Smith for a minute so that my glare was transformed to the men in uniform.’ (Early draft of OJAP)
That’s all well and good for Agnetha. That’s how she thinks. Man, that’s sometimes how I think. But I don’t think I could apply the technique to any of my other novels. For the first point, the other
two three (more on this soon) complete ones are third person. ‘Ezme’ is in first and might well benefit from lines of inner thought, especially as the narrator is not also the protagonist, so she often feels distanced from the events.
It’s one thing I should think about, at least.
But now I’m not so sure whether I should. I know I wouldn’t use it as a writing tool so much, because I am practised in a different style now, but the idea has some gravitas for The Agnetha King books. It’s using present tense and the characters’ present thoughts to expression their reactions to the situation.
That brings the reader in and gets them better acquainted with the main character – for better or for worse. Positives. Negatives: it makes tenses a little more difficult, and makes italics as an emphatic expression a little less clear.
And it’s not just whether I should have thoughts like these affecting my characters in present tense – it’s also whether I should have them in italics. I used to, but now they only appear in the Agnetha King Trilogy, which seems rather, well, arbitrary. I’m not going to make myself have italicised character #totalrunningmonologue just for the sake of it!
It happens in life, though, that the writer is plagued by characters that narrate their ex corpore experiences in their own voice in my head. I use that to help me write; it’s no as if there is no voice or subvocalisation. Normally, I don’t have to apply this technique too hard, but sometimes I do: thinking ‘what would another writer put?’ or ‘this is a male voice; what would my male friends add if they were editing this?’ The possibilities are wide enough, but it does help me ‘lock onto’ the better passage of prose that might be otherwise escaping me.
I don’t doubt that the characters have thoughts raging through the heads all day as I have, but I do wonder if there is much point vocalising the haphazard.