Monday, March 28, 2011

Introspection Detection

Do your characters think?  I mean, do they sit there and stew over something?  Do they stop the story so they can come up with a plan or analyze what just happened?  Not sure?  Better put on your introspection detection glasses.  Watch for these signs to see if your character is too “into” himself (because he’s internalizing, but because he’s vain):

-Does the character spend more time in his thoughts than he does speaking with other?
-Do you use introspection as the only way to reveal his character traits and personality?
-Does the character mull over every event?
-Does he calculate every risk?
-Is the internal dialogue fitting with the character and the story?

The two biggest mistakes a writer can make with introspection is letting it go on too long or writing it in an unbelievable way.  Meaning: the character wouldn’t really think that way or that NOBODY would.  Ex. The sky was the most amazing shade of pink and she wanted to become a cloud so she could float in all that pinkness.  Oh, how wonderful it would be to fly like a bird and soar though the skies.  Blah, blah, blah.  How is that moving the story forward?  What is that telling us about her?  Not much.  When you use internal dialogue, make sure it serves a purpose.

Introspection is a great way to show character, but it can’t be the only way.  Remember, whenever the characters stops to think, he’s keeping the story from moving forward.  Just imagine the scene as if it were on a stage.  If the actor has to stop and wait while his character thinks things through (even if he’s thinking out loud), will the audience loose interest?  At some point, they will.  We want to see things unfold.  We need to watch characters interact with each other or react to situations.  But that doesn’t mean you should remove all introspection. 

It’s all about balance.  Isn’t that always the way?

Have you read a book where there was too much or not enough introspection?


  1. Another great tips to remember as always. Thanks,

  2. Great post! I'll have to get back to you :)

  3. I'm probably at the other end of introspection. I use a lot of dialogue. It's what I seem to do best.

    Great post!

  4. Introspection is one of my favorite things. Fortunately, I think it's important in my women's fiction, since I write with a literary bent.

    Great post, Lynnette! Hope all is well for you and yours. :)

  5. Oh, also... I like that photo. *rawr*

  6. I'm struggling with this very thing in my current WIP. This is the first 1st person MS I've written and internal monologue (along with too many I's) are making editing a PITA!

  7. Ex. The sky was the most amazing shade of pink and she wanted to become a cloud so she could float in all that pinkness. Oh, how wonderful it would be to fly like a bird and soar though the skies.

    The above I do a lot especially since I love nature I so I will add this to my cheat sheet LOL

  8. Yeah, too much thinking is BORING :)

    I almost believe that it's better allow their fears and worries come out through dialogue or some narrative type actions.(does that make sense?)

    Anyway, I found myself doing too much of the internal thinking with my last chapter (I hit major writers block and at the time it was all I could do to write anything). Well, my crit partner sent it back and said no,no,no. Redo. She didn't want to know what the MC was thinking. She wanted to be surprised. So your post fits perfectly with what my crit partner said.

    Good post. Thanks for sharing.


  9. No, no, no, no, Yes . .

    I use dialoge and (hopefully) action to further the story. I use introspection after an event to give the reader a beat; maybe some motivation or empathy for the character. Sometimes during an event, if the backstory is relevant to the specific action.

    Of course, for my story, action can be an internal thing; drinking, hitting, defiance, palnning . .

    Hmm, I'll go take another look and see exactly how much introspection my character is doing. Don't want those annoying info dumps.

    Good post Lynette. Thanks for the insights.


  10. This was exactly the feedback I got on a few pages of my WIP. Thanks for a great post.

  11. There's one more mistake a writer can make, leaving it out! That's my problem. I don't tend to gently lead readers where I won't them to go, I just assume they'll follow. Oops! It's probably the number one thing I had to fix from crittiquing comments.

  12. Good post and great comments! I use introspection a little, just to let the reader know my characters are rounded. In my WIP my MMC talks to his dog to help him through and my FMC cooks while she's thinking.

  13. Great insight! I read something recently that had the heroine think about the same problem that had affected her life since childhood throughout the whole story. No matter what the situation was, it was all because...

    The story drove me crazy! Even when she went to a therapist her problems were all because...

    It finally got to the point where I didn't really care! Her introspection did nothing but slow down the narrative!

  14. Great comments! Thanks for sharing!

    Lynnette Labelle