Dialog and Internal Dialog

I’ve been doing my final rewrite of the second novel in my space opera series.  I’ve only got a couple of chapters to go before it’s as cooked as I can get it.  Late this afternoon I went back to a scene that had stumped me earlier in the day.

I realized I had used internal dialog where a son is reflecting on his father’s devotion to the ruling class and how the son rebelled against that.  The moment just felt flat to me and then I realized, both men are in the same space.  Why not have them say the words, actually talk to each other?  Offer insults and retorts.  Actually dramatize the passion of the moment.

So I rewrote it and turned it into an exchange instead of a rumination.  It works much better.  Because dialog to me is active, vibrant, energetic.  You can show the emotional ebbs and flows rather then telling the reader how a character is feeling.

Basically I don’t like internal dialog.  In a novel it’s often unavoidable, but I think if you can actually put people together and have them interact you’re going to be in a much better place.  I believe there is nothing more intriguing and fascinating and exciting then watching people expressing their hopes and dreams and fears and loathings to each other.

I’ve heard some people say that an action sequence is the most important thing to keep a book driving forward.  I don’t agree.  I think the interactions between humans are far more exciting.  In visual medium such as film then yes, an action sequence can be exciting, but think about the scene between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when she interviews him in his jail cell.  That scene was far more chilling and terrifying then Clarice running around the serial killer’s house at the end of the book or the movie.

In terms of what kills the momentum of a book dead I’d argue that poorly done description and internal dialog can often suck the life out of a scene.  I’ll take people communicating any day.  Probably wouldn’t hurt if we had more of that in real life.

2 Responses to Dialog and Internal Dialog

  • Gabi Stevens says:

    I believe this is the reason so few romances aren’t made into films. There’s way too much introspection in romances that just isn’t translatable to the screen.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      That’s an interesting insight. I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah most romances are filled with women thinking about the man, worrying about the relationship, etc. When you look at Love Actually they make it work because there are a number of stories that explore different kinds of love.

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