Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Internals, They're The Guts

            Yeah, kind of icky but, guts are pretty important. We’ve got a three legged cat, it gets along fine. Marne has a one-eyed dog, it’s fine. Without guts though, those two would be in trouble. Same with your story.

            Internals, (guts) are the things going on in your character’s head; thoughts, reactions, feelings. Without them your character can’t come alive. Without a live character, your story is DOA. In my opinion, internals tell the real story.

            We, as sentient beings, are always thinking and so should your characters. Even when they’re doing stuff, they should be thinking. We are. As you read this you are thinking. Some of you are thinking, “Huh, never thought about that.”

 Some, “Yeah but…”

Some, “Where’s he going with this?”

Some, “Maybe I’ll get a pizza for dinner.”

 And some, “This guy is an idiot.”

 The point is, what you were thinking would tell us something about you, if we heard your thoughts. As writers, we can use that.

            If your character is interacting with someone he finds attractive, or repulsive he is going to be thinking about that. Slip it in. Internals don’t have to be about what’s happening. often it’s more interesting if it’s not. Most interesting of all, is when a character is acting contrary to their internals. It is then they are lying to themselves.

If he is scared of the dark, daytime internals will be different from night. Your character will probably try to hide his phobia. How much fun is that sort of thing?

 If your character is a narcissist, his internals will be different from the selfless, self-deprecating hero of your story. We can use internals to make our characters unique. 

Probably the most important job of internals is keeping the reader in the loop. Only POV characters have internals. POV characters are main characters. Readers need to know why main characters do things. Internals explain that.

Readers also should be able to predict what a main character will do as a scene unfolds. Internals help readers know the character and anticipate his/her reaction. This gives your readers satisfaction when they are correct and a surprise when they are not. And when the reader is not correct, when your hero does something out of character, you will need internals to explain why.

Well, I’m at the end of the page. 

Hope you enjoyed our little chat. 



  1. That's a great post, Mike (thinks: wish I'd thought of it for my blog).

  2. Yeah, I was thinking about dinner as I read this; mostly cuz the kid kept coming out and reminding he hadn't eaten since I got home from work.

    But I get what you're saying; people do not always act true to the self image - their internalizations - and our characters don't either. Makes them, and their stories interesting when they are in conflict with themselves.

    Good advice Mike.


  3. I'm the worlds worst about adding internals. It's often my last layer. :) Thanks for reminding me so eloquently why it's so important!