Friday, January 2, 2009


Introspection is key to getting the reader involved with the characters in your story. Unfortunatley, I see too often writers that just mishandle the concept of introspection and then fall into the trap of "showing and not telling." Not only is this a weak approach that distances the characters from the reader, it slows the pace of the story immensely.

As you know, introspection is that look into the minds of the characters to really give us a chance to understand their personal goals and motives. These are, in many cases, the thoughts that are kept hidden from the other characters in the story to create more conflict later on. These are also, the thoughts that give us an idea of the personality of the characters. In my humble opinion, it is this element that is the most important and provides you as a writer the chance to create a fully three dimensional character.

Unfortunately, for many writers, introspection is executed poorly by many writers. Generally, I see authors spend countless paragraphs unloading information on the reader through narration. Although this works sometimes, it is generally like sucking the air out of the room. Just when you get the pace of the story going, you slow it down with the thoughts running through the characters head.

At the same time, many of these thoughts are all surface level issues. Many deal with the physical descriptions of the character, or simply as an information dump with backstory about why the character is acting that way.

So how do we change that? Actually the solution is very easy and one that will provide you some additional word count to use for more plot development later on in the story.

USE ACTION TAGS Right now what many authors use is the he said, she said thing. Instead, use an action tag that shows movement for the character that would also have an emotional movement to it as well. "I hate you," Bob yelled throwing the chair across the room. You can use longer phrases as well. This was the best I can do with a single cup of coffee but you get the idea.

REPLACE NARRATIVE WITH DIALOGUE Go back through your manuscript and find those long paragraphs where you describe what the characters are doing. Instead of telling us what they talked about, have them talk. Not only will this pick up the speed, it will give the reader a chance to see two sides of the character. The first is what they openly say to the other person, the second is what they think inside but are unwilling to share.

I also see this happen when a writer just skips the scene altogether. In other words, the writer says: "So, let's go in here for dinner." She smiled knowing this would be a great chance to get to know each other, and besides, she was starving. At this point the writer will generally skip to after the dinner. Dinner was wonderful and now they were driving home. Arrggghhhh!!! What happened to the dinner? What happened to what we can learn about the two?

Go back and play around with this. You will be amazed at the depth you can create in your stories.

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