Interior Monologue by Carol Malone

What was she thinkingThis material first appeared as a course within the Group Coaching Program for Novelists where Carol is an assistant mentor. Click here for more information about the program where we help novelists write, edit, publish, and market their books with joy, love, enthusiasm, and smarts.


Welcome back author Carol Malone as she discusses what interior monologue is, its uses in fiction, and how to write it effectively so your readers will feel deeply for your characters. Enjoy!


“Unfortunately, once you’d established yourself as a hard-nosed bitch, it was difficult to admit to the soft and fluffy woman you were hiding inside. And why would you want to admit to that anyway?”  “Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson

The above quote was the inner thoughts of a police woman in England nearing retirement. She’s thinking to herself in a paragraph of writing which is different from setting time or space, or stage setting. What writing device the author used to convey the officer’s thoughts is something we call, interior monologue. 

What is it and how do we write interior monologue?

What in the world is Interior Monologue?

Interior monologue is nothing more than our character’s thoughts. It’s more than description of what they’re doing or the setting of the scene. It’s like the characters are talking out loud to themselves, only in their head.

On the site, “novel writing help,” we learn there are different definitions of interior monologue.  These are two that they suggest:

* Stream of consciousness – like in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” – where the entire novel comes from inside a character’s head. Not a lot of plot to that form of writing.

* Solioquy: Think Hamlet’s: “To be or not to be” speech. Only difference is that Hamlet should have kept his long self-talk inside his head as not to be thought of as strange or crazy.

Randy Ingermanson suggested there were two forms of interior monologue:  Direct and indirect.

  1. Direct are the exact thoughts of the character
  1. Indirect is the approximate thoughts of the character as told by the narrator or author

The reason we write out our character’s thoughts out employing the writing device interior monologue is taught very specifically by Beth Barany, from her latest “Building Remarkable Characters,” workshop.

Beth said:  “So today, your job is to uncover, discover, excavate — use whichever verb works for you — your main characters’ fears and conflicts. [We can do this with interior monologue.] … to step into the mind, body, heart, and soul of your character, to breathe life into them, so that you can share that vibrancy on the page through the story to your readers. And so that your readers can forget about their lives for a little while and live another life, until it’s time to come back home to themselves again, hopefully refreshed and renewed.”

This is why people love fiction. We want to cheer for the characters, care about them, watch them overcome their conflicts, and we do that be living in their heads. Writing their thoughts out with the device interior monologue helps our readers make a connection that will last beyond the reading of our books and brings us deep into the characters point of view.

I love a good story where the character has some inner conflict with themselves, as does the woman in the following excerpt:

“No. No. No. What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she love someone who would love her back? Why couldn’t she have what her brothers and twin had? Why couldn’t she find a lover, a friend, someone who would always have her back, someone who would give up absolutely everything for her…and someone for whom she would give up absolutely everything? Why couldn’t she be one half of two people who didn’t need anything but each other?” Always on my Mind: the Sullivan’s,” by Belle Andre

Did you feel her conflict through her thoughts? You know her goals, her desires, and her fears without the author telling you about them. She doesn’t want to fall in love with a taciturn farmer who has loads of emotional baggage and who is all wrong for her, but she’s already in too deep.

Great authors skillfully use interior monologue to help characters sort out their deepest hurts, worst fears, and painful pasts so they can move on and change.

Yes, there are mechanics to writing interior monologue:

  1. You could write the thought in first person, present tense (which is the way we actually think them) writing the thought in third person, past tense (so that they blend in with the rest of the text). Example: “Joe walked to the corner and back. Instead write: This is the fifth time I’ve passed her house today. I wonder when she’s coming home.
  1. Using italics vs. using normal text, but use it sparingly lest your reader get tired of all the thoughts and close your book. Example:  [in italics: “Who does she think she is telling me I can’t date Henry?”]
  1. Using a “he or she thought” tag vs. not using one. This can be overdone as well. Example: “Boy, he thought, that dame is a dish.” I personally don’t think you need the phrase “he or she thought.” We’re already in the characters head, it’s overkill.
  1. Use neither italics nor monologue tags. [My personal favorite.] The two examples of interior monologue from Bella and Kate use neither italics nor tags, but the reader doesn’t have any problem understanding when the character is thinking and pondering in their head.

Whatever form you choose to use, do it consistently throughout your novel. We don’t want to confuse our readers now do we?  See more at:

Here’s some great advice from Randy Ingermanson:

“Interior monologue is one of the most powerful tools the fiction writer has. Mix it well with Action, Dialogue, and Interior Emotion and it’s hard to go wrong.”

Whatever your character thinks – write it down.

Your challenge: Perhaps you could take a moment and pick out a spot in your novel where an inner thought or interior monologue from your character could deepen the scene. Is there something they need to flesh out in their mind? How can you incorporate more interior monologue rather than TELLING the reader what your character is thinking?



Carol MCarol Malone successfully combined her three passions – romance, sports, and writing in her 4 and 5-Star rated book, Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night,” and became the first woman to punch her way into the male-dominated genre of pulp boxing with a tender love story. Her books entice readers to scramble into a front row seat for a power-packed thrill-ride or swoon to tales of gentle passion. If not hammering out new tales, Carol is reading, watching sports or the Food Network on TV, or hanging with her author husband on the Coast of California. She loves to chat about sports and amour.





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