Too much internal dialogue?
Too much internal dialogue?

One of the mainstream published novels I read recently had far too much internal dialogue. Internal dialogue is the stream of thoughts, which can be in monologue or dialogue, that many people have in real life. Though, interestingly, not everyone experiences internal dialogue.

In fiction, showing a viewpoint character’s thoughts is an excellent way to strengthen characterisation. We can see the character’s changing emotions and thoughts, the questions they ask themself, their hopes and doubts.

Internal dialogue shows us the interior life of a character, adding an extra dimension to a story.

However, too much will interrupt scenes, cause lengthy breaks in external dialogue or action which can lead to readers struggling to pick up the story again. Too much will also slow down pacing.

Imagine a scene where a conversation is taking place, and the conversation is constantly interrupted by an extended section of internal dialogue. The character might ruminate over what’s being said, and that’s fine and good, but if it goes on too long the external scene becomes fragmented and hard to follow.

In the case of the gothic thriller I was reading, the internal dialogue also added far too much unnecessary word count.

I think part of the issue was that the author was often using internal dialogue to emphasise the stakes, as if they didn’t trust the reader to work it out for themselves. But it would run on too long and become counterproductive.

Stakes should add to tension and pacing in more dramatic scenes, but stringing out the internal dialogue actually blows the pace. The author’s editor could have suggested cutting it back. I could see loads of places where cutting it back would boost not just pacing but the stakes by keeping things more focused.

I’ve read two books by this author and felt both were failed by the lack of proper developmental editing. There were also other issues including weak characterisation in relation to other characters. It was hard sometimes to tell the other characters apart. Less bloated sections of internal dialogue could have made room for better drawn characters.

After I finished both novels, I checked the Amazon reviews and many other readers had the same issues.

Do you want feedback on your novel?

I’m currently open to new clients. And I’m adding a new version of my Opening Chapters Edit service. Previously this was always a developmental edit, featuring a report and comments in the margins of your manuscript. However, I’m also offering a manuscript critique version. This is basically just a report with no margin comments.

If you’re interested in either of these services, or a full developmental edit or manuscript critique, you can check out my services page here.

Or you can email me at karen@indiecateditorial.com to discuss your manuscript and what you’re looking for.