Monday, December 7, 2015

Deep Thoughts on Introspection

by Alycia W. Morales

The other day I was editing another manuscript. Mind you, most of the manuscripts I edit are written by first-time, beginning authors. Although, there are some of us who've written multiple novels that are sitting in a file on our computer that haven't seen the light of day, because we know we're still learning the craft of writing. And someday, we'll birth THE novel that editors will love and will want to publish right away. So in that case, this may apply to us as well.

As I'm editing along, I'm reading a whole lot about what is going on inside someone's head. And then what is going on inside someone else's head. (After a hard break, of course, since we've switched points of view.) Granted, there may be a conversation or some semblance of action in between these deep inner thoughts. But 'tis the thoughts that fill the page. One after another. And they tend to be repetitive.

If I were to write out my thoughts, they'd look something like this:

It's Thursday. God, You're so good to me. Tomorrow is Friday. Which means I can sleep in the day after that. I tire of rising at 5:00 a.m. during the week. My best sleep hours are between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. But life doesn't seem to understand that, so I rise tired. I have to go to the store today. At least I get to buy a present. That's more fun than grocery shopping. Vic's always telling me how I take too long when I go grocery shopping. I never come back when I say I will. It's a nice time away from the house and everyone in it, but I'd rather be at the coffee shop than the grocery store if I'm going to have a few hours to myself. I have a bunch of editing to do. Will I ever have time to write again? I am going to squeeze two hours out of my day to write. That way, I'll have around 5,000 words a week. Maybe more. Maybe less. But at least it's progress. It's December. Well, I'll start doing that in January. My schedule's already full this month, and I have clients that need their edits. I want to keep my word with them. I should be editing rather than writing this blog post. I'm hungry. I need coffee. Maybe I'll go to the coffee shop today and work for a few hours before I go shopping. Yeah. That'll work. That mocha is calling my name. Warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe Lynette can meet me there. Lord, I'm so thankful for my best friends. I hope they know they mean the world to me. I'm so blessed to call them friends. I should check on my hubby. I wonder if he's not feeling well. He doesn't usually sleep in like this. Lord, thank You for him, too. Please make sure he lives a long, long life. I don't know what I'd do without him. My heart would break, for sure. Bless him today in all that he puts his hands to do. Meet him in the moments and speak to his heart. Thank You for a man who loves You and only wants what's best for me and our children. I am truly blessed.

Notice how scattered they are? Sure, you learn something about me and my plans for today, but does anything I said get me anywhere toward accomplishing my goals for today? Not really. Really, this is all a bunch of fluff.

And that's what oftentimes happens with inner thought in the midst of our novel writing. We tend to overload it. We tend to drone on about something the character is feeling or experiencing without putting them in the middle of the experience as it's happening. Instead of showing the reader what's happening around the character, we jump inside their heads and try to show it through their eyes ... but from inside, rather than in the midst of life.

Here's the key question to ask yourself when you find you've written from a deep POV (also known as inner dialogue or introspection or inner thoughts): Does this drive the story forward?

If not, CUT IT. (I know. That's so hard to do. But it must be done.)

Here's another question to ask: Is this introspection all about how the character is feeling or is it backstory?

Chances are, it is. If this is the case, CUT IT.

Another question to ask is, do I feel like my character has to think these things in order for the reader to better understand who she/he is?

Guess what? Yep. CUT IT.

Here's what to do instead:

Put your character into life. Have them converse with someone. Put them in the middle of a conflict.

Granted, there is inner conflict and outer conflict. And yes, you need deep POV for that inner conflict, but it should only come in one- or two-sentence bites. Not multiple paragraphs or entire pages.

The way to show the conflict is to have them interact with the scene around them and the character(s) within that scene. We can still show the reader what is happening inside the character, but it's better done with their body language and the tone of their conversations.

If someone picks up a chair and throws it across the room, I'm sure our reader will be able to pick up on the fact that they are rip-roaring mad. And we didn't even have to get inside the character's head to figure that out. If there's another character standing in front of him, and she says, "I'm so sorry, Jack. Peter never should have intruded like that," it's pretty obvious that a) Jack isn't mad at her and b) Jacks' mad at Peter for some kind of intrusion. And we never had to go inside Jack's head to show that.

So, the next time you come across paragraphs and pages of introspection in your writing, ask yourself those questions and see if you can rewrite the scene to show what's happening outside of the character. If not, find a friend or mentor or hire an editor who can help you get outside of your characters and get them into the world around them. Because that will bring your characters and your novel to life.

Some Deep Thoughts on Introspection ... via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Tips on how to cut the fluffy thoughts out of your novel & bring it to life via editor @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

1 comment:

  1. Great information, Alycia. I don't write much fiction, but found the information and examples very helpful. Sometimes I write from an inner perspective in my blog posts, and this helps me to focus better on showing instead of saying. Thanks!


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