As we mentioned before internal monologue can relate to the character’s surroundings, it can prompt opinion, memory and sensory experience. Alternatively we can use internal monologue to prompt description of the surroundings. Writers have told me that they struggle with describing settings that are familiar to the character even before the story starts because they don’t see why a character would describe the familiar. I suggest that they use the character’s opinions to prompt description.
Why is this? This is for the simple fact that even if we see something every day we generally have an opinion on it; we like or dislike the wallpaper, the chairs are comfortable or uncomfortable, the shelves are too high or too low and so on and so on. There are other ways to introduce description (see my articles on setting for some) but I find this method can really help. It may not work for you and that isn’t a reflection on your writing or its effectiveness as a technique, we all work differently but it can be worth trying.
For instance a character may walk into a room and there’s a table that they always bump into no matter how they try to avoid it because it’s awkwardly placed. We may describe them complaining about the placement of a table, which only needs a sentence and maybe only a short one, and we’ve shown reader part of the space and that the owner of this room isn’t very practical when it comes to furniture placement. Whether this is accidental or on purpose we don’t have to reveal straight away, we can build it through the story or mention it later.
Through internal monologue we can even introduce a space before the character enters it. They may have some trepidation about this space which could be related to the design of the space or what does on in it. By mentioning it before the character enters it we can build this sense of trepidation, even if it’s only that the wallpaper has a garish pattern that gives them a headache. Once again we don’t need reams of information about it, we can establish dislike and the reason for dislike, or leave the reason unspoken if we wish, in the space of a few lines, maybe less.
An example might be a character who doesn’t like lifts stranding in front of one and becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the thought of getting in the lift. In this instance we can build in a physical reaction, sweaty palms and a quickening heartbeat perhaps, which gives another layer to the scene. In the end they may decide to take the stairs instead and we’ve shown the reader how a character thinks, what they fear, how they react to that fear, and, in some instances, we may have shown why they fear it but once again this isn’t required.
In this way an internal monologue can be about more than simply expressing the character’s opinion of a place and can be used to introduce a place or add more dimensions to it. As with people the internal monologue can be more than ‘I think this about that’.
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