- Introduce problems or worries
- Explore relationships
- Expose insecurities
- Show the logic that drives a decision
- Illustrate bias
- Develop the character’s voice
Great, you say, but how do I do those things? It depends on your chosen point of view. Here are some examples for writing in first person—I’ll have some third person limited examples for you on Friday.
First Person: This is probably the easiest point of view in which to share what your character is thinking, because the narrative is basically a running commentary of the main character’s story. You can make this point of view work for you by taking care to insert your character’s opinions, blind spots, judgments, biases, fears, loves, etc. into the writing.
- Ask a question: “I cringed. Why did bad news always have a way of leaking out?”* The author shows the Kat’s reaction both with her physical response and the question she asks silently rather than out loud.
- Report a thought: The above could be written “I cringed, wondering why bad news always had a way of leaking out”—less direct but also effective.
- Play out an internal argument or show a character’s inner struggle: “I’ll show you some post-birth delirium. I felt like leaping over the desk and pouncing on her, sinking my three thousand dollars’ worth of orthodontia into her shoulder. Instead, I gritted my teeth and breathed in deeply through my nose. I would not let her get to me. I was not attached to this place anymore.”* Here the author italicizes the first sentence to show that the thought is directed at someone—almost spoken, but not quite. The rest of the paragraph shows Kat’s inner dialog as she talks herself back from the edge.
- Show a character figuring something out: “For the first time I realize I have no idea what I’m going to do. This is the thing that smashes me. My whole life I have always had a plan, but now I have no plan. Only a raging need. A need for what? What can I hope for?”**
- Reveal voice with a sarcastic—but unspoken—comeback: “Like there would be a next time…Yeah. The invitations to assist would come pouring in.”*
* Examples taken from Denise Vega’s YA novel, Fact of Life #31
** From R. A. Nelson’s YA novel, Teach Me
What about you? How do you expose character thoughts in your writing?