The old joke about how “the book was better than the movie” is a reflection of several attributes written fiction offers over visual fiction. One of the main ones is the ability to get inside characters’ heads via internal narrative.
Narrative, by its very nature, is narrated bysomeone. Usually, that someone is the protagonist. The “deeper” or “closer” the POV, the more important it is that narrative choices be crafted to reflect the narrating character’s internal landscape. Even in distant or omniscient POVs, in which the narration doesn’t pretend to issue from the characters’ heads but simply observes and/or reports, readers are still given at least glimpses of the characters’ interiority.
In many ways the subject of internal narrative is also the subject of POV (point of view). And POV, as any student of narrative fiction knows, is often one of the most difficult subjects for writers to understand and execute.
Today, I want to largely divorce internal narrative from the bigger questions of POV (e.g., “when and how is it okay to use different characters’ thoughts in certain POVs?” or “what are the nuances of writing a close versus a distant POV?”). Instead, as part of our ongoing series of “excerpt analyses,” I want to explore some common challenges writers face in trying to write internal narrative that is both functional and engaging.