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Inner Monologue

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Skye Jules

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I read the revised version of Self-Editing for the fiction writer, and one thing that caught me by surprise were the editors opinions of interior monologue.

It said something along the lines of this: If you are writing in third person, don't use first person for the interior monologue, because that makes the narrarator and character seem like they are not one in the same. They say you should only use first person monologue in third person narrative if there is narrative distance.

I qustion this, however, because I've read plenty of books in the third person that never maintained narrative distance (and if they did, I never got that sense) and the interior monologue was generally in first.
 

Skye Jules

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It's basically how close your narrative voice is to your character's voice. Say, for example, your MC is a five-year-old and your narrative voice matches the voice of a five-year-old. That's what it is.
 

Mumut

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I've always used first person for interior monologue when writing in 3rd person. I can't imagine it working otherwise.
 

maestrowork

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Narrative distance: imagine a camera. The closer the camera to your object, the shorter the narrative distance. If it's 1st person narrative, the camera is the character, so there's no narrative distance at all. With 3rd omniscient, your camera is everywhere, all seeing, all knowing from a distance, thus the biggest narrative distance.

There are different levels of narrative distances even in 3rd person. Close 3rd person limited is pretty much like 1st person, except it's in 3rd person (he, she instead of I). 3rd person omniscient is the most distant, because the narrator is completely separate from any of the characters.

Internal monologue can be done either way, but 1st person is the most immediate and personal, because there's no narrative distance. When you switch from 3rd to 1st and vice versa, there is a shift in narrative distance no matter how close your 3rd person is.
 

Juliette Wade

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First person inner monologue in first person doesn't stand out. In third, it does - so its success would depend on how it's marked. The most common ways of marking it are to use "he thought" after the first person inner monologue, or sometimes to put inner monologue in italics. If you don't want to bring your reader's attention to the contrast between the narrator, who is in third person, and your character's thoughts, in first person, you can do inner thoughts in third person as well. However, in order for these not to seem different from the narrator's thoughts, you need to have the general narration be very tied to the character's perceptions and judgments. The more character-external information the narrator has access to, the more distance he/she has from the character, and the more evident the contrast will be.
 

Tuuli

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Inner monologue has to feel organic to the writing and voice. If you have too much in first person when the book is supposed to be in third person, then it boots me right out of the story. I've read the book in question, and their reasoning is very clear and appropriate. Study books in your genre in third person and see what's acceptable. You might be suprised it wasn't what you expected. ;)
 

Tuuli

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I qustion this, however, because I've read plenty of books in the third person that never maintained narrative distance (and if they did, I never got that sense) and the interior monologue was generally in first.

How much of the interior monologue was in first person? I read YA and it's not as you've described here. Usually it's a sentence or two here or there. So of course my answer might not apply to your genre.
 

dpaterso

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It said something along the lines of this: If you are writing in third person, don't use first person for the interior monologue, because that makes the narrarator and character seem like they are not one in the same. They say you should only use first person monologue in third person narrative if there is narrative distance.
That sounds like a rough rule of thumb snippet of advice to be applied under certain circumstances, rather than a must-do hard writing rule. If it doesn't fit what you're writing, I'd ignore it and move on.

-Derek
 

Libbie

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Doesn't the use of first person create a reduced narrative distance in third person, though? what I mean to say is, "don't use first person for inner monologue in a third-person book unless the narrative distance is small" seems silly, because by using first person for inner monologue, you're making the reader draw closer to the character.

I don't think I'm making sense here. It's almost the end of my work day and I walked four miles this morning. Libbie is tired.
 

Lady Ice

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But if you give flashes of interior monologue in first, the reader's big question will be 'Why have you written it in third then?'
 

C.M.C.

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My book is filled with inner monologue, and it's all in first-person. I can't imagine how it would sound if it weren't.
 

Juliette Wade

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I do first person a lot, but I also do third. And in third, I don't put inner monologue in first person, even though I've seen it done a lot (like in Ender's Game, which just sprinkles the first person into the general third person narrative). It works well enough for me... here's an example from my story "The Eminence's Match," coming out this fall in the collection "Eight Against Reality" from Panverse Publishing:

Nekantor watched Kurek's fingers. Those fingers were the key: the deepening crack in Kurek's stubborn defense. And oh, was Kurek stubborn! He had experience: twenty-five years serving the Fifth Family, years of pride he used to strengthen the grip of those tight fingers.

If you don't use the intervening "he thought" and just go straight to the judgments, it's hardly noticeable.
 
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