12/14 – Fiction Day 3: Interiority

Reminder: your FICTION annotations, described here, are due on Monday 12/19.

Daily Warm Up: Write a short scene from the perspective of a historical figure like Franklin Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, or Jack the Ripper.

Focus of the Day: Today our focus is on exteriority (how we communicate what’s happening on the outside of a character) and interiority (how we communicate what’s happening on the inside of a character.

Yesterday, when we talked about showing with direct dialogue, direct action, and imagery, we were dealing with exteriority.

But when we talked about character thought? That was interiority.

Exteriority vs Interiority.png

Learning to build a character’s INTERIORITY is a central skill in fiction writing. Especially because to demonstrate interiority skillfully means you can’t simply TELL your readers what’s happening.

In fact, even including a bunch of direct or reported thought isn’t going to cut it. You have to show it through your VOICE. Voice refers to HOW you show the story happening, how you communicate the character–often through free-indirect style, as we discussed yesterday:

Free Indirect Discourse is essentially the practice of embedding a character’s speech or thoughts into an otherwise third-person narrative. In other words, the narrative moves back and forth between the narrator telling us what the character is thinking and showing us the character’s conscious thoughts, without denoting which thought belongs to whom. The result is a story that reads almost like it shares two “brains”: one belonging to the narrator, the other belonging to the character.

Charles sat on the steps and thought about how he’d blown his chances with Susan. What a moron he’d been! Stupid! And what kind of idiot walks around with toilet paper stuck to his shoe for two hours?

The last two sentences in this passage reveal thoughts that don’t belong to the narrator. They’re Charles’s thoughts, just slipped into the story.

…The best thing about this trick is: it gets rid of the middleman. The narrator temporarily takes a backseat for the sake of better representing the character, though the reader still relies on that middleman for the rest of the story.

adapted from John Gingerich on Free Indirect Style

Daily Experiment: One of the ways you can have good interiority on a character is if you KNOW that stuff and you’re drawing from a well of knowledge about your character.

So for today’s experiment, do some thinking about a character you might like to write about next week. Try answering some of the questions from ONE of these questionnaires below about that character:

Or, if that exercise doesn’t appeal to your inner creative soul, then instead, you could write a scene with your character where s/he wants something s/he can’t have. Because wanting is largely interior, such a scene will (by its nature) prompt you to think about interiority.


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