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Writing a character's internal thoughts

Hi everyone,

I usually write in 1st person, now that I'm writing something in 3rd I'm finding it confusing conveying the character's internal thoughts. I know there are a number of ways of doing this, and was wondering which techniques people tend to favour, and which, in you prefer when reading?

Can I use all of the different techniques in the one MS? Or is better to stick to the one or two?

Thanks in advance

Asked by: Clare Williams

  1. Clare Williams on May 31, 2017

    Thanks Victoria, that's very helpful

  2. Victoria Whithear on May 26, 2017

    Have you ever played poker?

    I tend to give each of my characters a sort of tick. It never means the same thing with each character, but as the reader gets to know them, they start to understand what each tick means. For instance, when one of my MCs is worried about his friend, he drinks bourbon and tinkles the ice against the glass in the same way his friend always does. That way I never have to say he's thinking about him; the reader just knows as soon as the ice hits the glass.

    My other MC had a particular way of inclining her head which usually had the people around her falling over their words to prevent the mouthful they were about to receive from her. Essentially, the head incline meant she was thinking up an acerbic retort and you had about ten seconds to dig yourself out of the hole, but I never once wrote that. It was merely demonstrated in the dialogue and actions.

    That's not to say I didn't head jump, but I gave myself quite strict rules about how often it happened in the same chapter and whose thoughts I used. Generally, I stuck to two characters, only occasionally jumping into peripheral characters to give the outsider's point of view on the situation. You should also understand my chapters are long in that particular book. If they were short, I would not take the reader into more than one head per chapter.

  3. Lorraine Swoboda on May 22, 2017

    So pleased you enjoyed the novel - and that it's being useful!

  4. Clare Williams on May 19, 2017

    Thanks Adrian,

  5. Adrian Sroka on May 19, 2017

    Hi Claire.

    Whether you choose to write in the first-person, or third, be careful to avoid the pitfall of using streams-of-thought to explain to the reader what is obvious to other characters. It’s a lazy way to convey information.

    Skilful writers use streams-of-thought to disclose things about a character that can't be revealed in any other way.

    A few examples for you to consider:

    A highly individual experience.

    A character revealing secrets about their past.

    A character revealing their true feelings about others.

    Examples that let the reader into their inner world of a character.

    The character in your novel could express their anger at the lack of visitors, the poor level of care, their suffering, or perhaps, you could reveal an event from their past.

    I hope that helps.

    Good luck.


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