Besides describing events as they occur the main way information is relayed to the user is through dialogue of the characters and the characters inner thoughts. Good writing has a balance of this, for they both have different uses in pushing the story forward. There are reasons to rely more on one than the other, depending upon the feel you are trying to evoke in your narrative.
Dialogue has the advantage of simultaneously moving the narrative along and possibly relating personal or past information at the same time. It does not however allow the same amount of inner thought to be revealed as internal monologues do. That does not mean that NO inner thought is revealed that way. Word choice, the topics spoke of, idioms used and other subtleties can clue the reader in to things that other characters might not pick up on. Overall though dialogue is better at conveying more overt information, unless it is in character for the speaker to say things that have primarily double meanings.
Narratives heavy in dialogue seem to read much quicker. Some readers actually crave the dialogue so much they skip past scenes that do not have it. Most information we gain about someone in real life comes from talking to someone else. Sure you may occasionally read of people that become your friends, but often getting to know someone starts off as a conversation with them, or about them. Because of this dialogue feels like a very “natural” way for information to be conveyed, and helps make that a primary form of fast reading for many people.
People often slow down when reading inner monologues, partially because in real life that is not something we can do. They are essential however for conveying information that is internalized. A lot of history, personality, and subtleties are easier to understand when coming directly from the characters head. Context is often key to truly understanding a character. Most people do not constantly talk about their past with others, and stuffing your novels with flashbacks is cumbersome (I know, this coming from the guy who is showing 12 years over twelve flashbacks over the course of a trilogy).
Without those resources the main way to deal with the past is the way many people do in real life. When things occur or even when idle it reminds them of other events that have some sort of similarity. In addition to relaying past information an inner monologue can often be the only way to really know how a character feels about a situation, especially if it is opposite of their words or tones used. It is easier to convey dramatic irony through inner monologues, and can add depth to a novel.
Narratives where the focus is on introspection, where nothing is as it seems, and the focus is on what lies beneath the surface will often have a disproportionate amount of inner monologues. The biggest issues coming from this however is that it can slow down the reader. Also, depending upon the reader or technique used, it can fall opposite of the normal “show don’t tell” rule of writing.
Pulp writing has little inner monologues while mysteries often come from a first person perspective that has most of even its dialogue sandwiched by inner thoughts and reactions. Fantasy and sci fi depends on the style used. Swords and Sorcery books come from the same vein as pulp, and therefore are dialogue or description heavy (more of that next blog). Large Epics often want to get in characters heads, and tend to lean more towards the inner monologues.
Which technique do you prefer?:
1)More Inner Monologue
Let’s go back to the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy, since that is what I am writing currently. Although not touched on heavily in the first book (but it is referenced) there are many “schools” of sword fighting available. Each Island has at least one school, no matter how big it is, and the largest Islands have many. Cenive for example, has ten large sword schools. Although any one form any guild or family can learn any style, most of the time those from the same guild learn the same style.
The Nemeni for example primarily learn the Southern Quarters style, which emphasizes two swords and precision. The Tanello instead learn the Staccato style, which uses rapiers only and is named after the fact it’s students learn to fight to music. There forms are taught connected to both orchestra and opera, and many of it’s students reach for a sword whenever they hear the appropriate music.
These schools are not only useful for learning how to fight, but give one a network of friends that can be relied upon. Houses and guilds should remain higher than that, but many see their Sword School as great family then blood itself. It should be telling that the Nemeni officially are not supposed to learn any style other than Southern Quarter, so that there should never be a conflict of loyalty.