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Direct and Indirect interior monologue

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, August 07, 2008

Interior monologue is a tool through which a writer can exhibit the thoughts of the characters to the readers. Shakespeare used interior monologue in the form of a soliloquy (where a character speaks to himself, thus revealing his thoughts). Even now, many writer use interior monologue to show the mental state of a character, his doubts, fear, plans, secrets or anything that he may be feeling or thinking about.

Direct interior monologue

As its name suggests, direct interior monologue is directly spoken by a character without any authorial intervention. It is a part of the dialogue and is within inverted commas. A character can reveal his thoughts to the reader by directly reacting to a situation. It affords the writer greater freedom.

“I hate going to Myna’s Palace,” he thought, dragging his legs forward.

This dialogue demonstrates the contradiction between how a character acts and what is going on in his mind. He doesn’t want to go, but he still is going.

In direct interior monologue, there is no chance of intervention by the author. It is the character who is in focus, not the author. An advantage of direct interior monologue is that through it, a writer can show instant happenings as well as reminiscences. A character may pass on judgments about other characters, he may comment upon the situation, scenery, characteristics and so on.

Indirect interior monologue

When the author comments upon the thoughts of a character, then it is called indirect interior monologue.

Stream of consciousness is a form of free interior monologue where a character’s thoughts are presented as random as they occur in the brain. It should be used only when required. Here is an example of stream of consciousness from James Joyce’s Ulysses. It presents Molly Bloom’s thoughts.

. . . yes because theyre so weak and puling when theyre sick they want a woman to get well if his nose bleeds youd thing it was O tragic and that dyinglooking one off the south circular when he sprained his foot at the choir party at the sugarloaf Mountain the day I wore that dress Miss Stack bringing him flowers the worst old ones she could find at the bottom of the basket anything at all to get into a mans bedroom with her old maids voice . . .

Indirect interior monologue becomes exciting when the author’s voice creeps in just a bit to add a feeling to a sentence. It goes like this –

“You dipped it in!” Mira exclaimed, looking at the swollen pancake floating in the water with utter astonishment. Such megalomania could only be expected from Mira.

The sentence in bold is an indirect monologue, as the opinion about Mira is being hinted by the writer (and quite boldly), not by any of the characters. The reader might not have judged till now that Mira has a huge ego, but when the writer so forcefully dictates it in a sentence, the reader, at once, starts to see her in that light.

For me, the biggest advantage of indirect interior monologue is that it surprises the readers and shakes them out of the lull that narration causes. It works best when used while giving a forceful or a sharp opinion about somebody or something.

As it is part of the narration and not of a dialogue, it creates a strong impression, as the opinion is of the author and not a character. Because of this reason, it becomes much more believable. Sprinkling indirect interior monologue in writing is a good method to surprise and instruct the readers at the same time.

A drawback with indirect interior monologue is that the author can’t relate instant happenings or describe action. He has to rely upon general thoughts or opinions about characters or their situation.


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