Using internal dialogue

One of the biggest advantages of writing a novel versus writing a movie or TV show script is that authors can use internal dialogue as a tool to tell the story.

Internal dialogue is what your character is thinking. It is not the same thing as narration, which is when the person telling the story (the narrator) talks directly to the reader.

Now there are a few rules about using internal dialogue.

  • Only use internal dialogue for the point-of-view (POV) character.

If you show the thoughts of non-POV characters, it is called head-hopping, and it is a big no-no in writing (though I do see many romance authors committing this writing sin.)

  • Only share thoughts that advance the story.

We don’t need to hear every thought in your character’s head. We just need to hear the important ones that are relevant to the plot.

Including internal dialogue is a good way to replicate real life. In our own lives, we are always thinking to ourselves – noticing things, trying to solve problems, giving ourselves pep talks or berating ourselves.

There are two ways you can include internal dialogue – indirectly or directly.

Indirect Internal Dialogue gives the reader an idea of the character’s thoughts without the exact words they are thinking. You do not need to include the tags “wondered” or “thought.”

Here is an example taken from Internal Dialogue by Marcy Kennedy:

The suffocating stench of lilies clung to his clothes. She slowly pulled away from his hug. Shivers traced over her arms. She knew that smell. Not perfume. It was too natural for that, but it also wasn’t an everyday odor. She wouldn’t expect to run into it at the grocery store. Or the bank, either. It was rare. Heavy, warm, and sad.

Her breath tripped in her throat, and she stepped back. He smelled like death, like a corpse smothered in flower arrangements at a funeral parlor. The last time she’d smelled it was standing next to her mother’s coffin, saying good-bye.

Direct Internal Dialogue gives the reader the exact words the character is thinking. It is written in first person and present tense, regardless of the person and tense of the rest of the story.

Here is above example written as direct internal dialogue (also from Marcy Kennedy’s book):

The suffocating stench of lilies clung to his clothes and hair. She slowly pulled away from his hug. Shivers traced over her arms. I know that smell. I should know that smell.

Not perfume. It was too natural for that, but it also wasn’t an everyday odor. She wouldn’t expect to run into it at the grocery store. Or the bank, either. It was rare. Heavy, warm, and sad.

Her breath tripped in her throat, and she stepped back. He smells like death, like a corpse smothered in flowers at a funeral parlor. The last time she’d smelled that scent was standing next to her mother’s coffin, saying good-bye.

Formatting your internal dialogue

There are many ways to include internal dialogue in your novel. There are two rules you need to follow.

1.) Never use quotation marks for internal dialogue.

2.) Be consistent with whatever format you choose.

For indirect internal dialogue, you are not using speech tags (he thought) or setting off the words in italics since you are not giving the exact words.

For direct internal dialogue, you can use both a speech tag or put the information in italics. (Liar, she thought.) Or you could just decide to use italics. (Where’s the money you owe me?)

Now if you write fantasy, paranormal or have people who can talk telepathically, then formatting your internal dialogue can be even trickier. Now you have people who externally speak dialogue, internal character speaking to themselves as well as two characters speaking privately in their minds.

Here is what I have done in my novels: I use quotation marks around spoken dialogue. I use italics for dialogue spoken telepathically. And I typically don’t use the direct internal dialogue and just stick with indirect.

Again, if you are consistent, your readers will easily understand what is happening.

Once you have mastered using internal dialogue, you can use it to help your readers connect with your characters. It will help the characters feel more real and most importantly the internal dialogue can advance your story.





My plan to spend less time volunteering has failed

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. Maybe it was just a nice passing thought but with the New Year, I wanted to spend less time volunteering at my kids’ school and more time writing.

For the past two years, I have been an officer in the parent-teacher association (PTA) at their school. With that volunteer position comes a big time commitment. It means helping out at PTA functions as well as doing my officer position as Treasurer.

prez_volunteer_awardlogo_april_09_flat_customI volunteered enough hours in the past two years to receive the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award. This is a national award given to those who volunteer between 250 and 400 hours a year. (I received a certificate and a lapel pin each year.)

This year I am the first vice-president in charge of parent education and PTA programs. This position isn’t as time intensive as keeping the books for the PTA, but I do still volunteer a lot of my time helping with our programs.

So at the beginning of the year we had a PTA board meeting. I took myself off the scholarship committee announcing that I was trying to cut back my volunteering. I didn’t raise my hand when they were forming the budget committee.

When they talked about things that need to be done for our upcoming festival, I agreed to do the flyers and signs because that is something I love to do, and since I did them last year, I have many of the files already done.

Then came the news that the woman in charge of the fifth-grade pool party (an end of the year celebration for those leaving elementary school to attend middle school) had to step down. They were looking for those who would chair the committee or at least help out. Since I have a fifth-grader, I couldn’t say no to helping.

I bet you can see where this is going. Yep, by the time we had our first committee meeting, I had begun talking to people about last year’s party. And since I was treasurer the past two years, I had access to the party expenses. And before I knew it, I seemed to be in charge of the committee even though I haven’t officially taken on the chair position.

Ok. The party isn’t until the end of May and tons of parents usually want to be involved so I think I should be fine with this additional responsibility. And then…

The PTA needs to form a nominating committee to elect officers for the next school year. When the PTA President announced this at our general meeting last week, there was dead silence from the audience. No one wants to be on the committee, and we need five members. Finally a few of us dedicated PTA board members raised their hands. (Yes, you know I was one of them.)

After the meeting, the five of us on the committee were supposed to meet and pick a chair. Somehow three of the others met without me and said while they didn’t mind being on the committee that they didn’t want to chair it. I bet you can guess what happened next. Yep, I am chairing the nomination committee.

The good news is the nominating committee is a short term commitment. We will be done by next month.

So I had good intentions to volunteer less. I do want to spend more time writing. I guess now I will just have to find a way to do it all.

Today’s Featured Author – Michael Bayer

Today I welcome another Texas author, Michael Bayer, to my blog. Michael released his debut novel, The Absconded, in November.  You can purchase it on Amazon.


What or who inspired you to start writing?

I always had an artistic side.  I tried to draw, but I never could get on paper to match what was in my head.  I played the violin for a few years in grade and middle school, but my high school didn’t have an orchestra, so I needed something new to do.  Then I had an assignment to write a scene using the ten or twenty vocabulary we were learning that week.  I still remember my English teacher’s exact words after I read it aloud, “Herm, that was beautiful.”  I’m pretty sure that was the seed that started it all.

Over the years I would get complements for my writing, usually term papers in college and grad school.  Whenever any writing was needed for work, I would jump at it.  It would take over twenty-five years before I could do anything beyond that, but that’s where my wife comes in.  When we moved to Texas for her career, she insisted I start writing full time.  Just when I thought I couldn’t love her any more, she shoulders the financial burden so I can pursue a dream.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I know some people say it’s the moment you start writing, but for me it was when I pressed the publish button and it became available for anyone to purchase.  It had taken a little over three years to get to that point, but felt so good when I finally clicked that button, though with some trepidation.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I started a short story, but that was mainly to keep my writing skills up while I was working on the nuts and bolts side of self-publishing.  The downside to doing it all yourself is the need to step away from your writing to work on the business side of it.  Sometimes I can jump right back in to writing, but most of the time it takes a couple of days to get back into the flow of the story.  But I’m happy to say I’ve started the sequel to The Absconded.  It starts off a few months after book one ended and is a continuation of the story.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I write full-time, but not the full eight hours a day I’d like to.  By the time I get my wife off to work and daughter off to school, it’s almost 9:00 AM and I haven’t even had my breakfast yet.  Which is fine, because I’m not hungry until around 9:30 AM anyway.  Once that’s done, it’s off to the word mines!

I tend to write in bursts.  Thirty minutes of staring or pacing followed by ten minutes of furious writing, followed by on the fly editing, re-wording, deleting, doubting and occasional cursing.  When I’m really stuck, I go and spend time with my bearded dragon.  He’s a good listener but doesn’t hold back his opinions.  This all goes on until about 3:30 PM when it’s time for me to pick my daughter up from school.  That’s when I worry about making dinner.  I rarely do any work in the evening, unless I have an inspired idea.  I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down almost immediately, I’ll forget it.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

There are two things I love about being a writer. The first is when someone reads a scene or a chapter, and completely gets what I wrote.  They have a clear image in their head of the characters and settings.  It’s not easy putting what’s in your head onto the page, but when that happens it’s magical.  The second is when someone tells me how much they love a character.  To have spent so much time crafting and giving them a personality, mannerisms, quirks and a history is not easy, but so satisfying to hear someone, other than me, say how much they love that person.

The worst part is deleting scenes.  The Absconded is about 107,000 words and that was after I trimmed about 35,000 words.  There were scenes I spent weeks writing, and absolutely loved.  But in the end, they didn’t serve the story and slowed down the pace, so they needed to go.  It was rough, but in the end I was glad.  The story was much better, much tighter.  Whomever said you must be prepared to kill your darlings was right.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

The Absconded was written flat out.  I had been trying to write it for about ten years, so when I was finally able to dedicate myself to writing, it just came pouring out.  That’s why I needed to trim 35,000 words from it as well.

Unfortunately, I am not having the same experience with the next book.  While I came up with the basic idea for book 2 (and book 3) while editing The Absconded, I needed to outline the story and character arcs.  That took about three months, but once done it felt great to start writing those people again.

How did you come up with the title?

I’ve always liked the sound of the word, absconded.  It’s a fancy word for stealing and would always conjure up images of Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible type heists.  It’s also similar to abducted, but with a big difference.  You abduct a person, but abscond an object.  Having someone think of a person as an object, a thing, is quite unnerving to me.  You haven’t just taken away their humanity, you don’t even acknowledge it.  Right off the bat, it sets the tone of a person, or in this case an entire alien race.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

More than you think based on what’s described in the book.  I read all I could on theoretical physics and scoured NASA and other websites for space travel, living in space, and long distance expeditions.  Now I had to apply that to an alien race and decide how they would resolve those issues.  And this became an interesting rabbit hole for a couple of months.  How would an alien species design their ship?  What would be a priority to them?  Now I had to create the alien’s history and how they evolved because culture determines priorities, so that required researching different cultures on our planet.  Once all that was decided, building their ship was easy.  Well, on paper it was easy.

Another rabbit hole was designing the alien’s biological research area and procedures.  You’re abducting aliens, but how do you know they aren’t contagious to you?  I needed to create a combination quarantine/medical research facility and all that encompassed, but make it alien and believable.  And place it on a ship where real estate is at a premium.

Very little of the technical aspects are explained in the book, but I’m hoping to describe at least some of it in to the sequels.  It was a lot of fun and I’d like to explain some of the science and logic behind the tech, but only if it pertains to the story.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

The Absconded is the first in a series.  How many books in total remains to be seen, but I was thinking of at least three.  It took me a couple of months to plot it out and have everyone’s character arcs.  I don’t have a firm title for the second book, but it picks up about three or four months after the end of The Absconded.  The survivors of the first book (yes, I am being coy for those who haven’t read it) are now in limbo.  They’re all far from home and some are wondering whether they have a home to return to while others are searching for their purpose, their function in life.  Everyone’s definition of home and purpose is different and the story is their journey to find it, all while being hunted by the aliens who originally captured them.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The hardest scenes were describing the settings on the ship, specifically where all of the aliens that have been collected are kept.  Making it foreign, yet similar, was a challenge and required quite a few re-writes.  My first attempt was pages of settings and descriptions and was boring, almost to tears.  Thankfully I was able to find right balance of action, character and setting.  I think the first year of writing was finding my voice, my style.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I need a dedicated place to work.  Someplace I can go and my mind says, “Okay, playtime is over.”  My wife’s work requires a lot of conference calls, so it made sense for her to use the home office.  Once she closes the doors, she can tune out the rest of the house.  Since we never use our formal living room, I converted it into a second office.  It has a desk and an old sofa, but that’s just so the cats can hang out in there while I write.

But I could easily pick any spot and label it my work area.  What really matters to me is getting into the right frame of mind for what I’m writing, and that requires music.  Lots of music.  I have about 60 GB of music on my computer (about half of my CD collection) and there’s always something playing when I’m writing.  If it’s an action scene, I need a song to give it a cadence and rhythm.  If it’s a character scene, then it needs to be appropriate for the scene.  Even when creating a character one of my first decisions is what type of music would be appropriate for them, what type would they like, and I listen to that incessantly while creating their history and description.  For me, music is more important than where I write.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

In addition to music, my writing is fueled by green tea.  Dragonwell, to be specific.  On average, I have five cups a day.  Anything else I snack on is whatever I find in the kitchen.  It ranges from an apple to carrots to chocolate cake.  But the tea is required and sometimes supersedes lunch.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading two books at the moment.  Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli.  I like keeping abreast of science and this is a great refresher on the basics of Einstein’s theory of relativity and other advances in physics.  It also goes into the history that led to the discoveries and theories.  I find it fascinating how one little observation, a moment of curiosity can lead to a discovery that reshapes how we view the world and universe around us.

The other book is Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  Mexico City has banned vampires.  Just think about that for a moment.  That means vampires are so ubiquitous and intelligent that you can ban them from a city.  That says a lot about the world of the novel and immediately caught my attention.  I’m only a couple of chapters in, but the world building and characters have me completely hooked.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

First up is Tom Clancy.  He made technical jargon and events utterly fascinating.  He described the explosion of a nuclear bomb in vivid detail, both the physics of it and how it affects the environment, and made it riveting.  He also managed to juggle so many characters in his novels and I never was confused.  I would love to know how he managed that.

Second would be Aaron Sorkin.  He’s a master of writing conversation.  The first few seasons of the West Wing are fantastic.  He made smart people with opposing view points arguing so engrossing.

Book Blurb

abscondedUnfortunately for Scott, aliens exist.  Snatched from Earth, he finds himself added to their collection of creatures gathered from throughout the universe.  His cage is a window to the wondrous varieties of life, and the atrocities that can be inflicted upon it.  Atrocities that are clues of what awaits him.

Nearby is Kaliria, a furred being that’s equal parts wild and wily.  A long, torturous captivity has filled her with a righteous rage.  She spends her days alone, simmering in her cramped confinement, pining for the fields and forests of her world.  Pining for companionship.

While happenstance makes Kaliria and Scott neighbors, it’s desperation that makes them allies.  In order to survive, they must overcome each other’s language, culture and mistrust, all while keeping their interactions hidden from their captors.  And if they succeed, there’s still one more obstacle to surmount — escaping an alien ship traveling through space.

About the Author

michael-bayerbwMichael C. Bayer lives in North Texas with his family consisting of two humans, two reptiles and four felines. At the urging of the humans, he quit his job to follow a life long dream. He combined his love of science, knack for telling tall tales and decades of daydreaming, and began to write. The Absconded is his first novel.

You can check out Michael’s Facebook page (a work in progress) or check out his Amazon Author Page.

You can purchase The Absconded on Amazon.

Struggling to find topics for a writing-related blog

Start a blog they suggest. It is a great way to get your name out there and help build your “brand.” (As an author, your brand is your name.) So while I prepared to self-published my first novel, I also started this blog.

I started with lofty goals of blogging new material five times a week. Three of the days would have posts I created (parenting, publishing, and writing – one each week) while the other two would be weekly features – Quote of the Week and Friday Featured Authors.

But writing three posts a week and continuing to work on my next novel proved to be too much and I went down to two original posts a week. I would do one on parenting and one on writing/publishing.

Now, a popular writing adage is to “write what you know.” And that has definitely come into play. On the parenting, I typically look at what is happening with my children – birthday parties, health problems, believing in the tooth fairy and topics like these. I write about what our Parent-Teacher Association is working on such as fundraising or speakers and I even have written about vacations or events such as the Alamo City Comic Con that we are attending.

And with writing/publishing, I often do the same thing. If I am trying to name/develop characters or build my own world, I blog about that. If I am editing my novel, then I write about that.

And when I get around to publishing it, I update my blog with posts on formatting, cover design and marketing.

But after doing this for five and a half years, I sometimes struggle with what to write. I have already covered characters, starting scenes, ending scenes, story arcs, setting, editing, grammar, covers, titles, pricing, and so many other topics.

I recently searched topics that writers can blog about. No help there. I am not writing this blog with fans of my novels in mind. I am writing this blog to connect with other writers. (Not that others writers can’t be a fan of my work.) So, all the suggestions of writing about the movie you saw or what a day in your life is like, just don’t cut it.

So, as I brainstorm for new ideas for the next couple of months, I thought I would see if any of you have suggestions on something I haven’t covered or even something that I should update. If you have an idea, please post it in the comments. If not, I may resort to answering my interview questions from my Friday Featured Author spot!

#NewRelease – THE JEALOUS FLOCK by Ashley Borodin

Author Ashley Borodin released his debut novel, The Jealous Flock, last month. If you would like to read it for FREE, he is giving away copies in exchange for an honest review.


Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name’s Ashley and just to be clear I don’t expect to be called Zim or Zir. My name, in its various permutations, was a popular boys name in Australia in the late 70’s. There were three of us in my highschool year-level, making it the most popular name in the school I think.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Australia, in the southern, and least deadly bit called Victoria. At the moment I’m in the process of moving back there from Tasmania, which is even more southern.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

This is a tough one to answer. I’ve always been capable of writing but seldom motivated. In school and later in life various writers with a strong mind, with powerful ideas have goaded me, taunted me into putting my own will to paper. I think the final two voices that lead to my actually writing a novel were Bukowski and Ballard. If you’re reading my work and looking for similarities, for a sort of provenance, then I think those two could be considered the fathers of The Jealous flock. I’m thinking in particular of Bukowski’s poems and Ballard’s Millenium People.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’m not sure I do. And judging by the muted response I get to my pleas to be taken seriously, I’m not sure anyone else does either. But if being a writer means struggling to be heard above the din and persevering in the face of inevitable and constant rejection, then I started to feel like a writer about two weeks ago. That’s when I really started to stop being a writer and start being my own publicist.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

The character of Randall in The Jealous Flock is a thinly veiled version of me. I’m also in all the other characters, especially when they are observing the peculiarities of others – that’s my Outsider’s view on the world.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have two ideas in the works. One is a coffee table book of my best poems and the other is a novel about an orphaned boy who is one of the Lost Children:

Here’s an excerpt:

Morris hurried down the crumbling rock. The passageway grew dim and soon the next corner would cut all light, but he dared not use his torch. It was the corner after that, the one with the drop, and only then after a thorough check would he even think about lighting the way.

The dogs were angry. Scurrying eggs catapulted them toward the tunnel entrance and soon they too were slipping awkwardly on the rocks. One hit the wall and yelped. That gave the second pause, but not before he’d already collided with his sister and the two had become tangled on the sharp rocks. Each yelped in turn and tried to get their bearings.

The scent.

But the boy was gone.

As they nosed the air, only silence and dusty breath met their senses. It was over. The chase was at an end.

There would be consequences.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Things that have an impact on me emotionally, events or stories I relate to. I suppose I make finding a way through my own grief, my own story through the stories of others. In ‘The Jealous Flock’ I am speaking largely as the boy who said, “The emperor has no clothes!” This experience has been, and still is, a large influence on my thinking and outlook on life.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Both. However I am going to map out my next project before really getting stuck in this time. It makes life a lot easier.

Please tell us about your current release.

The Jealous Flock is my debut novel and it’s short. A lot of people like it once they’ve read it, which is gratifying. It’s getting anyone interested in the first place that seems to be the tricky part. If you’ve ever watched one of those mini-series that the British do so well about an upper-middle class family going through some kind of crisis – well imagine taking that and putting it on the world stage. Giving that story international, geopolitical context. That’s The Jealous Flock. It relates all the small things to the very large things that are shaping our society today.

What inspired you to write this book?

About 4-5 years ago I could sense a change in the zeitgeist. I come from a deeply religious, indeed Fundamentalist Christian, family and the Gift of Prophecy is something they take for granted. I see foresight in a more prosaic manner but that’s basically what I was doing back then – forecasting the future. I saw a few, but certainly not all, of the emerging trends and tried to commit these revelations to paper as quickly as I could.

How did you come up with the title?

That shall remain an enigma. A good poem, koan or aphorism, a good riddle has to stay and gnaw at you. It’s not my job to spare you the necessary discomfort of allowing it to do its work in the back of your mind.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I’ve been watching documentaries for ages so I had a lot of backlog of international affairs to wade through. Also there are those British dramas I’m quite fond of. Then there are books of course. I’ve done some reading on Sufism and the Hashashin. I did conflate these in the book in an unrealistic way and there’s a reason for that. The reason is to exaggerate the  hodge-podge of Islam that leads to extremism to show the contrasts within the ideology itself and the varying cultures we broadly label as ‘Islam’ as outsiders.

I watched a lot of interviews and visited websites of people with similar roles to those of my characters. And I did a lot of first-hand reporting. Writing live from the bus, on the beach, in my house surrounded by screeching birds.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I hate books and films where every character is an idiot. I have to live with these people so I’d better make them somewhat likeable. That was my approach. At the same time I didn’t want to make them archetypes in the way Ayn Rand does with her characters. I’m not a romantic, I’m a Realist. A Realist who also invents things. I think I like Randall the best because he’s the most fully realised of the lot. I had an easy relationship with him. The others I felt a little antipathy towards. Or rather an aloofness. They are entirely foreign to me but I did my best to understand them, generally by bringing them to heel.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I’d be Martin. He’s much more important than me and doing a lot of worthwhile stuff with his life. I envy him.

If you could jump into any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I tend to like open world fantasy games so I suppose something like Lord of The Rings would be a pretty awesome world to inhabit. As long as I can save at any time.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Ayn Rand because I think our fights would be epic and I could retire on the ticket sales alone.

GK Chesterton because I’ve recently discovered Distributism and I would like to start implementing his ideas with his blessing.

Book Blurb

the-jealous-flockForced from their collective comfort zone, all three members of Martin’s family come face to face with the realities that underpin their urbane way of life. Each is faced with a paradox that will test their belief in themselves and their image of the tolerant, liberal society they believe they inhabit.

An epic in miniature, The Jealous Flock takes readers from the cloistered air of Professional London through the harsh realities of the Middle East and on to the culture war simmering beneath the surface in Australia.

Through their interwoven narratives each character tries to grapple with change as they question their authenticity and value as individuals amidst The Jealous Flock.

About the Author

Ashley Borodin was born in Victoria, Australia in 1978, that means he remembers stonewashed denim jackets the first time round. He has been published in a few literary journals and delivers poems into the void daily on Twitter. His début novel is The Jealous Flock but he won’t tell you what the title means.

You can find out more about Ashley on his website or you can follow him on Twitter.

You can get a free copy of The Jealous Flock in exchange for an honest review. It is also available on Amazon.