Anyone who’s seen either bad 80s fantasy/sci-fi films or The Incredibles knows the dangers of monologuing. It is a) a rather clumsy plot dump, and b) frequently bad for the monologuer’s health or long-term prospects. There is, however, an exception to this rule and that is the internal monologue.
When you write in first person you have a unique opportunity to see the world from behind their eyes, thought processes and all. It’s an incredibly powerful tool which enables the writer to justify all kinds of crazy stuff to the reader, from the character’s actions to social structure. People are naturally good at rationalizing through unconscious internal monologue. “I’ve worked hard today so I deserve that cookie” is the start of a slippery slope.
Turns out, though, that one of my weaknesses as a writer is that the narrator’s internal monologue is a little too unconscious. In that I don’t actually write most of it. This is the difference between real and written – the written version has to actually be pinned down into words, rather than a vague feeling in the back of your head. It has to become a conscious stream of thought, really, because there are limits to most first person perspectives. Seeing the narrator’s thought process is all fine and dandy but if that thought process is deep enough that it doesn’t actually get considered at a conscious level then the reader doesn’t get it either. In some ways, this is where an omniscient perspective is actually more powerful – you can see more about a character than they know themselves.
As editing points go, adding an internal monologue is actually pretty easy. The emotions and thought processes are already there, they just need to be pinned down onto the page. And, of course, it helps develop the character even further. I have to say, though, that it seems to be bringing out aspects that even I wasn’t expecting. We’re at the stage when the people have a life of their own, which is both encouraging and a bit dangerous. It means I no longer have full control.