Stuck in your hero’s head


Five do’s—and five don’ts—of writing the inner life of your characters

One of the unique and fantastic properties of fiction is how it allows us to travel inside our characters’ innermost thoughts, feelings, and sensations. 

It’s so Vulcan mind-meld! In real life, we often struggle to understand and be understood by others. In fiction, we can dissolve that boundary between me and you and dive right in there. It’s really a superpower.

But like any superpower, the ability to depict the inside of our character’s heads can be used for good or for ill. Writers soon encounter all kinds of pitfalls in figuring out how to manage this internal landscape of consciousness.

For example: We know we’re supposed to show not tell, but eavesdropping on the voice in someone’s head often feels like nothing but telling.

And we know what goes on inside our heads—it’s often pretty repetitive and pointless, right?—but our story will grind to a halt if we indulge our characters’ tendency to ruminate, worry, replay facts or events the reader already knows, and succumb to distraction. 

What exactly should you be offering your readers once you lead them inside your characters’ craniums? And, importantly, what should you avoid? In this talk I offer five specific examples of each. You might want to take notes.

Questions? Please leave a comment. I want to know what’s inside your head about this!

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