One Quick and Easy Way to Beef Up Your Manuscript

A few days ago, I shared with you my writing resolutions. The first thing on that list was to stop using the same physical descriptions over and over again. Well, friends, after much thought, I’ve decided to amend this to resolve to stop using them altogether. You see, my writing seems rife with descriptions like “My heart flies into my throat” or “My stomach sinks” or something equally horrible. And, let’s be honest, I’m not exaggerating when I say that those descriptions really are horrible. They’re unimaginative and uninspired and they make for boring writing.

I’m going back through my latest manuscript and cutting them like I’m Simon Cowell.

I’m slicing and dicing and showing no mercy. And in their place, I’m adding a heaping spoonful of interior monologue. I’ve talked before on here about how agents and editors complain that a lack of interior monologue is the number one thing missing from many manuscripts they read. And now here I am, saying it again because it’s fresh in my mind.

Don’t tell us what your characters (and their organs) are doing. Show us what they’re feeling.

Here’s a concrete example from my current MSS. In this scene, my main character asks someone she considers to be a friend for information, and he refuses to give it.

BEFORE

“You’ll figure it out.”

I sigh and drop my head into my hands.

AFTER

“You’ll figure it out.”

Everyone seems so sure of that, except for me. I’m having some serious problems in the comprehension department. I sigh and push my chair back to stand. I hate being shot down. It makes me feel like such an ass for asking in the first place.

That original exchange is totally boring, right? But in the rewrite, you get a better feel for who the character is and what makes her tick. (At least I think you do. You can be the final judge.) And really, making the reader understand (and hopefully cheer for) your character is what it’s all about, isn’t it? So get rid of those boring old descriptions and dive into your character’s heads. Your reader will thank you for it.

What do you think? Are you a big interior monologue fan? What are your favorite tips for drawing it out of your mind and onto paper?

 

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16 Responses

  1. Laura Hughes says:

    Wow, Meredith! That is a great example. Your second example totally amps the overall voice. I’ve never thought about this issue in terms of ‘internal dialogue’ before. Thanks!

    • Meredith says:

      Thank you! I’d never really thought of it as an internal monologue kind of problem until recently either. It was one of those lightbulb moments, and I’m going with it, lol.

  2. Holly says:

    That’s always one of the first and biggest things I have to change in my MSS. 😉 You’re very right, it gives a much better feel of who a character is.

    • Meredith says:

      Same here. My first drafts are riddled with the same cliches over and over again. I wish I could train myself to just get it right the first time, but going on past experience, it doesn’t look like that’ll be happening any time soon.

  3. Karen Strong says:

    I’m definitely an interior monologue fan. Especially when you get to learn a lot about the character.

    Were you in that conference workshop at FL SCBWI last winter with Krista Marino when she was talking about interior monologue? This is exactly what she was saying.

    • Meredith says:

      YES. Krista saying it was the first I’d really heard about it, but after that it seems like I hear it EVERYWHERE. I don’t know if everyone finally got on the same page or if I finally just started paying attention to what they were saying. Probably the latter. No wait, definitely the latter. 😉

  4. I definitely still have stomachs and hearts all over the place (and isn’t context in conversation everything?), but I also have a lot of interior monologues. Like, maybe too much. I feel like my MC has an opinion on everything, when sometimes all I want is to say ‘she felt sad’.

    • Meredith says:

      Oh, simple thoughts definitely still play a part. A very important one! Because I totally agree with you that sometimes there can be too MUCH inner monologue. And you definitely don’t want to get to the point where your readers are all “Stop telling me about your damned feelings already!” The key is finding a balance, which I’m still working out for myself …

  5. Thank you for this! I’ve been trying to think of what really conveys emotion, and this sums it up perfectly.

  6. Connie says:

    I’m a huge fan of interior monologue–it’s a great way to show, not tell.

  7. Colin says:

    Ooo… excellent point. And a good example. This is something I’ve beaten myself up over, so thanks for the tip. :)

  8. Such a simple-yet-awesome tip, and one I can always use reminding of. I’m a fan of SHE SIGHED and HE SMILED and SHE SHRUGGED. It can get pretty twitchy in my worlds. :) Thanks, Meredith!

  9. Oh-so-true- this is good advice. I think a combination of physical reactions (not over the top) and interior monologue keep the voice and the pacing. :0)

  10. Shel Delisle says:

    Honestly, I think both interior monologue and all narration (including physical sensations) need to be viewed through the filter of the character. Who the character is will determine how they tell the story. Are they over-the-top drama queens or stoic? Introverted or extroverted?

    It’s okay for someone to sigh and drop their head into their hands or have their heart fly into their throat, but it has to make sense in the context of who they are. And, yes, interior monologue can complement the physical reaction if the time/scene lends itself to that.

    Sometimes, though, characters just have to react. Or express the physical. Like during a romantic moment. The character is kissing, for example. If she loves the guy you don’t want a lot of interior monologue. If she doesn’t love the guy, then interior monologue would be a great way to show that!! LOL!

    It’s all subjective, but’s that’s JMO on how I use all that stuff.

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