Lately,
when reading, italicized internal monologue jumps right out at me. Literally. The
words jar me, and I’m sure they jar the majority of readers. Why? How can I put this?
  • Internal
    monologue is shown via italicization. The reader is going along in the normal
    font, and then it slants. Then it returns to normal. Then it slants again.
  • When used in
    third-person viewpoint the italics are joined by a sudden switch to
    first-person viewpoint.
  • When used in a
    first-person viewpoint, the italics have no reason for being there. Italics
    announce to the reader that the point of view wasn’t deep enough in the first
    place.
  • Internal thought
    is used as a shortcut in fiction, and as such, it becomes a tool for telling
    rather than showing.

As with all style
issues in fiction, overuse of italics is tiresome and ineffective and should be
used sparingly. I believe that internal thought has two functions: 1) to
place emphasis on an important thought; or 2) for relevant silent
prayer.
When self-editing
for areas where telling versus showing are the focus, italicized
internal monologue is a great place for an author to search.
In the evaluation
of these areas, here are some questions that should be asked:
  • Is the internal
    monologue important enough that it needs special emphasis (and if that is true
    more than twice in a manuscript, the author may want to determine another way
    to get this emphasis across)?
  • If internal
    monologue is included in a scene, can the first paragraph be set stronger to
    clearly define the point-of-view character and to allow his or her thoughts to
    flow in the narrative, drawing the reader closer to that character?
  • If the story is
    being told in first-person point of view and internal monologue is being used
    does that mean that the first person, point-of-view character’s voice is not
    strong enough for the reader to realize that the thoughts are flowing from that
    character into the narrative?

Internal monologue
has a place in fiction. It can be used to great effect, but only if it used minimally and for the greatest impact.
Happy editing.

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