As promised, this week I am going to be talking about internal monologues and what they are, how I write them, and what some methods are for working on them. These are very difficult to do – but a lot of fun to preform and share with other people.
Most of you probably know that my first chapbook, Laments, came out this last Friday and it is comprised completely of a style of writing known as internal monologues. A spoken monologue is a long speech that is given by a single character. Shakespeare has many good examples of monologues. They appear in almost all of his major plays.
What is it? What’s the difference between a monologue and an internal monologue?
Monologues are a spoken art. While they are written and practiced – memorized until it is perfected – it starts out written. An internal monologue is one that happens in a character’s head. It is something that is meant to follow a human thought pattern, which is nearly impossible to do – but that doesn’t mean that I am not going to give this a try.
I first heard about internal monologues at the beginning of my second year at university. I was in my first creative writing class and didn’t really know what I was going to do. I was scared but wanted to try everything. Little did I know that it was going to spark what would become my career goals later that year.
My professor mentioned internal monologues and how much of a challenge they were – so of course I had to do it because when am I not extra or trying to do something difficult.
You can find internal monologues in almost any book. Tris in Divergent has one of the most noteworthy ones that I have seen. So much of what happens in that book is based off her thoughts and feelings that there is no way to replicate it through visuals. That’s one of the reasons that I feel the movie was not that good. They didn’t give her an internal thought log as the movie progressed.
Katniss in Hunger Games is another with a strong monologue – internal monologues aren’t difficult to understand in theory. They also aren’t hard to recognize. The practice is where the whole thing gets complicated.
How to think about them.
When I was looking at my final in another class – the one where the first version of Laments was born – my professor and I started talking about what an internal monologue was and how I could better improve them. The answer was quite simple: the more you understand about human thought process, the better your monologues will be. Psychology. More importantly, psychology that talked about why people feel a certain way, think a certain way, and behave a certain way. So basically, what I did was a lot of case studying.
It was boring – until she recommended some books that have changed the way that I think about internal monologues.
Everyone who is a psychology major knows who Oliver Sacks is. He is a brilliant psychologist who explores cases that he has dealt with and ones that his peers have been involved in. He explains what his thoughts are on specific things and what he thinks the reasons are for the problems that his patients are having. Sacks was a brilliant psychologist who completely underrated his own work. I plan on reviewing a lot of his books for further work on internal monologues as well as many other things. Knowing psychology helps to build characters as well.
These were only a couple of his books that were recommended to me:
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat (1985)
- Awakening (1973)
- Hallucinations (2012)
- An Anthropologist on Mars (1995)
These are all books that I have found to be very helpful – but I will be honest and say that I didn’t read all the way through them. I only got through part of them, but like I said earlier, I plan to do reviews of his books so that you guys know what you can get out of each book so that you can pick the one that is best for you and your writing.
How to go about making them yourself.
Something that could be done and that I plan to do soon, is to find a disorder and then mimic how you think the symptoms would present themselves in a person. That’s something that can be done using Sacks’ books. Personally, I didn’t focus on a specific disorder – although one of the sections you could easily argue that the person is a schizophrenic. I didn’t want to be bound by that label, but with that label comes a more consistent character, which is important.
Internal monologues in the end are what you want them to be. My teacher had me make a list of everything that I thought should be in a monologue reflecting human thought.
- No grammar
- Repeating words
- Thoughts should not be complete
- Conflicts – in every sense of the word
- Don’t have to make sense
- Can reflect an action
- Can reflect a desire
These are things that I thought of when I was trying to write Laments. You will see where some of these rules are broken. Some of the pieces have lines that could be sentences if you put a period in. Some of the thoughts are complete. And for the most part, each of the pieces have a linear beginning, middle, and end. I was finding it difficult to make them nonlinear when I was trying to get a specific thing across in each one.
Oh goodness – there are honestly so many ways that you could write one of these. You could do it more essay like, in complete sentences, etc. It all depends on what fits your definition of an internal monologue.
You can change font sizes, colors, even fonts in the monologues to show emphasis or a change in volume or tone of the persons’ head. I have done all of that in Laments which I can point out to anyone who is interested in being shown.
I also write mine as solid blocks of text in 2/3 sections of Laments. The other one has one or two pieces that have spaces and that is to signify the passage of time.
The main thing about monologues is about making them your own. These are something that you should be proud of. You don’t have to write them the way that I do. You could write them the way that Katniss and Tris were written in complete thoughts. You could write them with spaces in between the thoughts when they change subject. These can be as experimental as you want.
I do feel like I’m taking a chance making my first chapbook an experimental one, but this is one of the things that I enjoy talking about (as you can tell with the really long post) as well as writing.
Because I’m trying to show you different ways to write this, I think that showing you my process is important cause then you can try it this way or try and do it another way and see if that works for you.
Phase 1: Complete thoughts. Write for three minutes nonstop (DO NOT STOP)
It is really important to write for the full time. Even if you don’t think that you will be able to. Typing song lyrics can be something that can help to fill the time. Just start singing something in your head and see what comes of it. Make sure that your writing in complete sentences. This can be complete thoughts, though they don’t always come out linear since you are just writing as you go. Don’t erase anything now. During the first run through just write, write, write. You can take the sentences and stuff that you don’t like out later as well as rearrange them if that’s what makes sense to you. I have about a minute left and I have nothing else to talk about. Should I talk about the way that I can never spell monologue and how spell check is the only reason that I have been able to have it in this post so many times. Like, I would be screwed if there was nothing like that. Thank God typewriters don’t post to the internet or I would be screwed.
*Notice how when I first started writing it was more to inform and then it turned more into thoughts. That’s kind of what happens. The mind wanders and then wants to go into another direction. It’s fine. Don’t think you have to talk about one thing. If you run out of something to say, go onto something else.
Phase 2: Take out all the grammar. No periods. No commas. No Capitals (I usually leave proper nouns capitalized).
it is really important to write for the full time even if you don’t think that you will be able to typing song lyrics can be something that can help to fill the time just start singing something in your head and see what comes of it make sure that your writing in complete sentences this can be complete thoughts though they don’t always come out linear since you are just writing as you go don’t erase anything now during the first run through just write write write you can take the sentences and stuff that you don’t like out later as well as rearrange them if that’s what makes sense to you I have about a minute left and I have nothing else to talk about should I talk about the way that I can never spell monologue and how spell check is the only reason that I have been able to have it in this post so many times like I would be screwed if there was nothing like that thank God typewriters don’t post to the internet or I would be screwed
*This already reads faster and differently. It reads faster and to me it already is starting to take the form of a thought.
Phase 3: Change fonts, sizes, and rearrage words/eliminate if needed.
typing song lyrics can help to fill the time start singing in your head and see what comes of it make sure though you are just writing as you go don’t erase anything now during the first run just write write WRITE I would be screwed thank God typewriters don’t post to the internet or I would be screwed
*This is a lot shorter than the previous too. That’s fine. It came down to the essence of what I wanted. Things change context too when placed side by side.
Talking it out.
The one above is not my best attempt, but you get the idea. Eliminating is going to happen. Each piece in Laments started out as 4+ pages of single spaced, Times New Roman, 12pt font monologues. I cut them by more than fifty percent to be put in the chapbook. I had to make them less than two pages because they would have been too much to read at 4 pages. It’s all about what you think your readers can handle. Also think about what you can handle writing. It was hard coming up with that much – and so much was repetition. Some is good. Too much can kill an internal monologue.
Okay guys! Thank you for sticking it out with such a long post. I didn’t mean for it to be so long, but I still feel like I could talk longer about this style of writing. If you want to know more, let me know and I could try making a part 2 where we can workshop one of the monologues from Laments and I can try and explain my thought process on choosing what and why I did what I did. There is an artists statement, but it only goes so far in depth about this.
Just a reminder to get your copy of Laments if you want one. They are $12 apiece. For now you can email or IM me on Instagram or over the blog site. You can also just post a comment on the page and I will get back to you about it. I’m only making 50 copies so get one if you really want it! They went on sale last Friday and I love this book – it’s been my baby for the last year, so please grab one if your interested.
I also said earlier that these can be performed, let me know if you guys want me to do any performances of the pieces in Laments. I would love to do it, but it takes a lot of energy to put them together, so I only want to do them if it’s something that you really want.
If you haven’t already, please, please, please follow me on Instagram at writers.block.blog and also like my page on Facebook @TheWritersBlockBlogger or you can just search my name, Amanda Cook and it should take you to the page. Also, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to get notified when new posts become available.
Till the next chapter-