3 Things to Remember When Writing Inner Dialogue

Joan Dempsey

I may be hip deep in a nonfiction title but my brain keeps drifting towards fiction.  I think part of the “problem” may be that I’ve been hanging out in Gutsy Great Novelist Studio, an online writing community hosted by author/writing instructor Joan Dempsey.  Earlier this week, Joan posted an article on inner dialogue, one of the lessons in her free course on dialogue.  So that is where my thoughts have been today.  Here are three things about inner dialogue to keep in mind.

  1.  Include it.  If you are writing a novel for young readers, be sure to include some inner dialogue.  It is one way that you can clue the reader into your character’s emotions.  This is something I frequently find myself reminding new writers.  We need to know what your character is thinking.
  2. Inner dialogue isn’t dialogue.  These are your character’s thoughts.  You can also use dialogue to tell us what your character is thinking but dialogue can also be a lie. So inner dialogue is an opportunity to tell your reader a truth that may be unknown to many of the characters in the story.  For example, you might write:  “Thank you, yellow cake with chocolate icing is my favorite,” Clara said while thinking that really she loved chocolate with chocolate.  Yellow cake with chocolate had been her twin brother’s favorite.
  3. Keep the punctuation simple. This one was from Joan. Often new writers will put inner dialogue in quotation marks but avoid doing that to avoid confusing your reader.  When I asked Joan how to punctuate two character who communicate mind-to-mind, she said to do that with quotation marks because it is communicated externally if not audibly.  So it would be something like this:  “I hate chocolate cake,” Clara thought to her cousin Emily.

I really enjoyed the free class on dialogue.  Starting Monday, April 27,  Joan is teaching a Master Class on Great Dialogue.  You can learn more about it here.  I haven’t taken the paid version but given how much Joan gives in the free version, you are sure to learn quite a lot.

–SueBE