Saturday, March 19, 2011

Inside thy head

Inside my head is where I love to spend my time when things outside my head get too hectic (as they tend to do lately and will keep doing so until the end of the summer).

I'm an in-head writer. Ever heard of them? Those crazy people who sometimes stare into space and stop listening to you because you just gave them an idea and they're writing it inside their head. I do that. I never get bored during long travels because I start to write. I write before I go to sleep. I write while I listen to music. My head is a gigantic notebook. And I love it :)

Right, enough of that - let's get to some story elements, okay? BTW, peeps - I WROTE! On paper (well, computer) I actually wrote two pages, trying to finish a chapter I'm rewriting. It was awesome!
Story elements... I was saying something about them.

So, as a critter, I piss of people most of the time saying things like -
I'd like more inner thought here;
What does he/she think about this?
Are they happy/frustrated/annoyed about what that other guy said?
I want more feelings here.

Yeah, those who are stuck with me might have seen some of these lines in between their lines. And that's because I want to connect with a character - I want to get inside their head - see what makes them tick. Why should I root for a zombie? I mean, I love a good setting like the next reader, but I'm all about the character. If I can connect with him and see the world through their eyes. then I'm in. I'll buy his adventures, no matter where they take him (or her).

How to perform a lobotomy

That's how they call drilling into the brain, right?

a. Inner monologue and rhetorical questions are always a good and obvious start. They do a good job at showing the character's thoughts and feelings.


Christine lowered her chin and looked at him. “This is the first time we speak.”
 Sam yanked the other headphone out. “Yeah, I guess so.” She could have anyone. Why on earth was she talking to him? Especially since he couldn’t get a coherent, intelligent statement out.
 Christine batted her eyelashes then bobbed her head to the music. “I heard rumors that you and Lisa are going out.”
 He was going to kill Harry. “We’re not.”
 “Perfect.” Christine grinned and threw the headphone back to him. “It was nice talking to you.”
 “Yeah, really nice.” God, he was an idiot. Couldn’t he come up with something better?

Basically, what  we have here is - inner thought, questions the character asks himself and his feelings on what's happening (the idiot part :)). For me, these are all important because they help me get into Sam's head. He likes her, ergo the tongue tied attitude, and he feels like beating himself up for not being cooler around her. He's shy but wants to overcome it. 
Not much, but enough to connect with his needs and wants for this stage of character development.
This is stuff I always love to see in a story. 

b. Visceral reactions - are also good when getting in tune with a character.

  She cupped his face in her hands. There was something in her eyes, in her smile, that made his pulse race. And she came closer and closer until she kissed him gently on the cheek. His heart jumped into his throat.

A racing pulse, a twisting stomach, a knot in the chest/throat - little things that gets the reader into the atmosphere with the character. And in fiction, little things count ;)

c. Outspoken opinions - it's nice when the character says it all out loud, even if inside their heads (out loud for the reader) - his feelings, his opinions -  obvious information on them. 


 “Where’d you get this book, anyway?”
 Kyle smirked. “One of the guys at the Academy is obsessed with this stuff.”
 “More than me?” Sam had no idea why he felt competitive about this. It’s not like it increased his cool factor. But the idea of one of Kyle’s Police buddies being more into history than him was outrageous.
 It's fun to see a character questioning their own actions and feelings - it show those actions and feelings.

d. Then there's the character's actions - those show a lot about who a character is - but I usually like a little inner thought and what they're thinking after or before they act - show me why they did it - what's their inner motivation.


Sam had never hit anyone for real in his life. He’d wanted to help Christine, but from that to actually punching her aggressor was a long way, a way he couldn’t remember even considering to take. What was happening to him?

After action thought - explains why he did it - except in this case he doesn't really know (because guys are usually thick and can't tell when they've fallen head over heels for a girl).

Is this too much? Not for me. I bask in character feelings and reactions - it's true that I don't always harp on this. There are places where coldblooded action without any feelings works well - I don't always need to know what the character is thinking regarding everything. But I do need my share of intimacy with the guy's/girl's head.

That's just how I work as a reader. And that's why I try my best to cover it all as a writer. I've read things that are nowhere near this inside the character's head - you need to have a smashing plot then. For me, the lack of the reaction from the character must be compensated with a thick plot. The less the character is developed, the better the plot had better be.

Am I the only feeling freak out there? If not, I call to order the new order: Feeling Freaks United! Who would like to join? (We have punch and pie)


  1. I'm so there, and not just for the punch and pie! I love to know what the characters are feeling/thinking too. But sometimes it's done too much that it slows the pace. I forget the name of the book, but the MC described her feelings/thoughts so much during dialog, I would have to go back and reread just the dialog to remember what the characters were talking about. All the interal dialog took me out of the story. So, as long as there's balance, which is so hard to strike in my writing, I'm all about Feeling Freaks United!

  2. Hi Steph. I saw your comment on Cinders blog and followed you here!

    You make a lot of good points and I agree that you've gotta care about the characters because if you don't then what happens to them doesn't really matter that much.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts. :)

  3. I agree. One of my favorite opening lines in literature is "Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K." From Kafka's The Trial. This single line puts us squarely in the head of the main character and we immediately feel the paranoia building.

    Cu plăcere, Steph.

  4. @Lindsday - Hmmm... I think I might have read that book as well - I remember being annoyed by all the inner thinking - I want the current feelings, not musings about what happened 20 years ago inside dialogue.
    Woo - hoo - we're up to two members now :D

    @Cheryl - Hi Cheryl! Long time, no chat ;) Glad to have you aboard and I hope you enjoy my rambling :)

    @James - OMG, I loved that Book! I actually loved all I've read by Kafka.
    Lol on the Romanian - you knew I'd say thanks, didn't you? ;) So, Mulţumesc! :D

  5. I recognize this from a crit I got from you! :^) I guess I am inspirational?

    All excellent points, Steph.


  6. Keep reminding my characters to express themselves! Every bit of feedback helps me see where I can possibly elaborate in editing. Usually, you're right :)

    I do warn people to watch those questions though, as sometimes they start to sound like author thought--like you're deliberately trying to guide the reader to think a certain way. In my mind, any time I can show feeling with action or dialogue, I think it makes the scene richer, without always leading the reader around by the nosering :) One valued critter said, "Trust your reader." So, I have to continually watch for places where I over-embellish.

    But, please keep yelling at my characters. They're a stubborn bunch!

  7. Yes, well, I do yell at characters...all the time :) And not doing so will mean not doing my job :p
    And, all things in moderation - I think I forgot to mention that in line :D Good thing you pointed it out, Mysti!

  8. Great point about drifting off at times. Harlan Cohen talks about the same thing in a Writers Digest article (see the last question):

    Great blog. Keep it up!

  9. Sorry, Harlan Coben! Not Cohen.


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