How Do You Write Internal Dialogue?

Internal dialogue can reveal what a character is thinking to the reader. It can reveal a lot about a character's thoughts, fears, self-esteem, and overall point of view. As a result, internal dialogue is one of the most important tools a writer has at his or her disposal because it can provide a rich, three-dimensional rendering of a character.

What is the purpose of writing internal dialogue?

Internal dialogue allows you to get inside your character's head and experience the character's innermost thought patterns, point of view, and opinions. Inner dialogue (also known as an internal monologue or internal thought) of the main character can add context to their spoken dialogue or completely contradict it, revealing direct truths about the character. In addition, these inner thoughts frequently reveal emotions or points of view that the character considers too painful or embarrassing to reveal to the outside world.

Formatting an Internal Dialogue

Remember that the only real rule for internal dialogue in fiction writing is that quotes should be avoided while dialogue tags can be used. When writing spoken dialogue, quotation marks should be used. Some authors use italics to indicate internal voice. However, the italics create a narrative barrier between the character's thoughts and what is happening in the scene. Your writing style will determine your format and whether you write in the first or third person.

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Direct internal dialogue vs. indirect internal dialogue

Internal dialogue written in the present tense is known as direct internal dialogue. Direct internal dialogue is defined as internal dialogue written in the present tense. Whether the rest of the story is written in the present or past tense, direct internal dialogue is always written in the first-person present tense. Italicization is more common for direct thoughts. When internal dialogue is written in the past tense, it is known as indirect internal dialogue. It is more common to present indirect internal dialogue without using italics.

Three examples of internal dialogue in third-person POV

The internal dialogue makes the reader understand what the characters are written in the third person think and feel. Here are examples of internal dialogues written in POV in the third person:

  • In italics, with label: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. Alex sighed. It's not science fiction, older man, he thought. This is real life.
  • Italics, unlabeled: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. Alex sighed. It's not science fiction, man. This is real life.
  • Not italicized, tagged: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. Alex sighed. This isn't science fiction, man, he thought. This is real life.

Four examples of internal dialogue in first-person POV

Many successful authors choose to tell their stories through first-person narration, capitalizing on the heightened sense of immediacy the style brings. Here are examples of internal dialogues written in POV in the first person:

  • In italics, with label: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed. This isn't science fiction, older man, I thought. This is real life.
  • Italics, unlabeled: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed. It's not science fiction, man. This is real life.
  • Not italicized, tagged: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed. This isn't science fiction, man, I thought. This is real life.
  • Not italicized, unlabeled: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed. It's not science fiction, man. This is real life.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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