3 Tips to Writing Third Person Internal Dialogue

3 Tips to Writing Third Person Internal Dialogue, Renea Guenther, Editing Your Novel, Revision, Internalization, Narrative Distance, POV

If we want our readers to form an emotional connection with our main character, they must be able to get into their heads.

They need to experience their reactions, feelings, and thoughts about their surroundings and the events around them.

This is easy when writing in the first person POV as everything is up close and personal.

But when writing in the third person, there’s more narrative distance between character and reader.

Making it harder for the reader to step into the character’s shoes and see and experience things from their perspective.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which internalization style you use: tags, italics, or making the character’s thoughts part of the narrative, as long as it sounds natural and keeps the story flowing.

However, there are some things you need to take into consideration if you don’t want to lose your reader’s attention.

1. It must sound like the character.

Use internalization to show your character’s voice and let readers connect with them on a more intimate level.

Everybody has their own opinions, words or phrases they favor, and style of talking.

There should be no difference between how they speak in dialogue or internalization unless they’re purposely hiding their true nature from those around them.

However, if they are, the reader should be aware of the reasons behind it and be able to recognize it’s still the same character to avoid as much confusion as possible.

2. It should be intermixed with action, body language, and stage direction to keep the pace moving.

People don’t often think while staring off into space unless the moment calls for it.

Most of the time we do our thinking on the go, during menial chores or in reaction to something around us.

In the heat of the moment, however, such as a fight or something dropping on our heads, we often react first, think later, as part of our fight or flight reflex.

This protects us in those times when thinking out the solution might be ideal, but time doesn’t allow for it.

It helps keep us alive in most cases.

However, not everything is life and death, so we need to keep it natural to the situation when we’re writing.

This might involve such things as pushing a strand of hair out of the character’s face, picking up a flower on the side of the road, slapping someone, or inspecting a footprint.

There are a variety of ways a character can think and interact with the world around them.

We just have to look for them.

3. The narrative distance and POV must not change.

I’ve read quite a few books that have started off in the third person and jumped to the first person for internalization.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it very disorienting and confusing.

I always have to stop and read back a couple of paragraphs to figure out what’s going on.

It takes me out of the story every time, and if it’s too overwhelming, I’ll even set the story aside in favor of another one because it’s too much effort to read.

To me, the story must be consistent and flow from one point to the next without me having to stop every few minutes to figure things out.

I consider it a waste of my time, so why would I waste my reader’s time.

I don’t want to give them a chance to pause or be confused, because every time they do, it’s a chance I might lose them as a reader.

Probably permanently.

Because if they can’t finish one of my books, they’re not likely to pick up another one.

With millions of books in the world for a reader to choose from, there’s little room for second chances.

So, why take the chance?

What type of internalization do you use? Tags, italics, or narrative?



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Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.

She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.

She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.

From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.

She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.

When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.

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2 thoughts on “3 Tips to Writing Third Person Internal Dialogue

  1. Pingback: How to Find the Perfect Pace for Your Story – Renea Guenther

  2. Pingback: How Do We Know When to Show vs Tell? – Renea Guenther

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