Does your character talk to themself?
Does the narrator inject main character POV ruminations and observations?
For me it’s a constant debate. I’ve historically tried to write detached, relating what happens and what people say—only. But, that ends up feeling distanced, cold and reporter-like. So, I now try to inject the occasional inner dialog to help personalize the main character. Knowing what they think, feel or silently observe tends to draw a reader closer, they become a confidant.
But, how much is too much? Can you dictate a lengthy internal diatribe and get a way with it? There are certainly story lines that you can leak through such exposure without having to laboriously “show” them.
But is that it? Internal dialog or nothing?
Jan, over at Tinhats, got me reading Rider of the Purple Sage, and I came across a passage where narrator/author Zane Grey reached in from the heavens and colored the scene with mood and prophesy:
She pressed his hand in response. He helped her to a seat beside him on the bench. And he respected a silence that he divined was full of woman’s deep emotion beyond his understanding.
It was the moment when the last ruddy rays of the sunset brightened momentarily before yielding to twilight. And for Venters the outlook before him was in some sense similar to a feeling of his future, and with searching eyes he studied the beautiful purple, barren waste of sage. Here was the unknown and the perilous. The whole scene impressed Venters as a wild, austere, and mighty manifestation of nature. And as it somehow reminded him of his prospect in life, so it suddenly resembled the woman near him, only in her there were greater beauty and peril, a mystery more unsolvable, and something nameless that numbed his heart and dimmed his eye.
What was the purpose of that? (Love the alliteration “ruddy rays”) Nobody thinks like that:
“Here was the unknown and the perilous”
But as I read that and more and reflected back on many other examples of errant pontifications I’ve read, Doerr, Atwood, Gaiman, etc. I had to think that it’s not just story line that needs communicating.
Perhaps the purpose of such musings is to evoke an emotion, a molded atmosphere from which the author wants the character to be seen and understood. In this case, the character shouldn’t try and think or speak those words. But a particular ambiance needs to be evoked, so the narrator steps in and decorates the scene.
Perhaps, though, an inner dialog annotation by the main character can also serve to help set the mood or spirit of the scene. Some characters could surely wax on about their own plight, doing so to communicate the mood.
And maybe that’s a factor that needs further examination. When and where should such left-field thoughts drop onto the page?