Revising Internal Exposition

Quote: “Dialogue is a key part of any story and it’s usually what readers find most engrossing. They might skim long descriptions, but when they get to someone speaking, that’s where they’ll get pulled back into the narrative.”—Moody Writing blog, mooderino 


Internal exposition is when a character is busy having a discussion inside their own head. It can provide vital information on how a character is reacting or feeling in regards to what’s happening within the story, but it’s a skill that if done incorrectly, often causes shallower writing or narrative distance.

Dialogue illustrates characterization quicker than any amount of exposition. If you disrupt the action and dialogue to include colossal chunks of detailed description or introspection, it will remove the reader from the story. 


Yet, if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve written a couple of bad novels, and even had them published under a pen name many years ago. But that was long before I sharpened my writing skills and studied the art of fiction writing with a crazed intensity. I read articles on editing and revision, books on the craft, and studied style guides.


Long blocks of introspection can be dreary and slow down the pacing of a novel because it is passive, and often robs the reader of getting to know a character’s personality and/or personal struggles by showing them. 


While dialogue usually quickens the pace of the story, internal exposition slows it down.


So anytime a writer can revise introspection into dialogue, they should. Especially, when there are two or more characters in a scene. 


Why have the character say it in his/her head, when it would be much more impactful to be shown in conversation?


Please carefully study this example


SHALLOW: Henry said that he wanted to quit school. I wondered what Henry meant by that remark. Was he serious about dropping out of college?


REVISED: 


“I’m thinking about quitting school next semester,” Henry said, shuffling his feet. 

“Why would you do that?” I frowned. “Are you serious about dropping out of college?”


Henry stared out the window and didn’t answer.



***


The revised example reveals more insight into the characters, rather than having the main character just thinking about it in his/her head. 

Inner-monologue is one of the essential ingredients used to create a comprehensive storyline. Unfortunately, it’s all too often one of the most misused elements in storytelling. Since internal-monologue is slower and can be boring for the reader, find ways to bring it to life through Deep POV, action, and dialogue by revising it into showing rather than telling. Don’t let your character’s mental babble (long blocks of introspection) go on for pages at a time without a break by either dialogue or action. 


Whenever possible, I encourage writers to revise introspection (also known as internal exposition, interior monologue, inner-thoughts, etc.) into actual dialogue when there are more than two characters in a scene. I feel that dialogue is naturally faster paced and much more interesting to readers than long blocks of narrative. 


I have included some examples on how to stay in Deep POV by turning boring exposition into attention-grabbing dialogue between the characters. 


https://www.amazon.com/Fiction-Writing-Tools-7-Book/dp/B01IVVHTEO


(In the shallow examples, I have underlined what I consider shallower writing (telling).) Please carefully compare these sentences

SHALLOW: I saw the pirate give me a mean look as he asked about his gold.


DEEP POV: The pirate’s bushy brows furrowed. “Where be my gold, wench?”


SHALLOW: Martha McCray was angry and glared at me. I told her that I wasn’t scared of her, but that was a lie.


DEEP POV: Martha McCray gave me the evil eye and I gave it right back to her. “You don’t scare me,” I lied.


SHALLOW: Damon wore a furious expression, and then he told Tyler that he was going to beat him up.


DEEP POV: Damon’s expression darkened as he rolled up his sleeves. “I hope you realize, I’m about to kick your ass, Tyler.”


SHALLOW: Klaus stared at Stefan and he looked upset when he called him a liar and accused him of dating Caroline. 


DEEP POV: Klaus skewed him with a hard, unblinking stare. “You lied! You are dating, Caroline.”


SHALLOW: Emily felt angry. Why did he have to be such a jerk?


DEEP POV: Emily’s lips flatten and she gets right in his face. “Why do you have to be such a jerk?”


SHALLOW: He looked unsympathetic when he said that he would not help me bury the corpse.


DEEP POV: His expression turned stony. “I’m not helping you bury the body. You’re on your own this time.”


SHALLOW: He was exasperated with the cops and demanded that they locate his daughter.


DEEP POV: He ground his teeth. “Find my daughter—now!”


SHALLOW: Amber looked indifferent when she complained that I always got my way. 


DEEP POV: “Fine. Have it your way. You always do,” she said, her tone laced with bitterness.


SHALLOW: Dorian appeared mad at her for asking if they could eat pasta again this evening.


DEEP POV: Dorian clenched his mouth tighter. “I do not want to eat pasta again tonight.”



***


Writers never want the reader to feel removed from their story by too much introspection, instead of being deeply emerged within the fictional world that the author has worked so hard to create. Now I realize that writers can’t turn all introspection into dialogue, but I encourage you to find clever ways to change the ones that you can.

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