Write Better, Right Now: Interior World of Characters

Interior World of Characters

Write Better, Right Now is a weekly post about getting writers to understand deeper writing strategies to take their stories to the next level.

Write Better, Right Now’s topics for February:


The interior world of characters or their interiority is an important part of characterization. It gives the reader insight into who the character is when no one but the author is looking. The interior world of our characters can be their thoughts, feelings, inner struggles, or any other internal aspect of them that is not shown to the other characters of the story. Often what editors, agents, publishers, and readers come to fiction for is the interiority of characters—they want to know who these people are all alone in the dark.

“Lonnie left out the back.'”

While the above gives us an idea of what the character did and the name of our character, we have no idea who they are or what they are like.

“Bursting with more than urine, Lonnie left out the back and wished he’d see Hank one more time before this sad night was through.”

With this second example, we’re able to get a better grasp of who Lonnie is and what is forcing him to go outside. We also get a bit about what he’s feeling, what he wants, and some intrigue surrounding Hank. Pairing the interior world of our characters with their actions allows us to convey more to our readers than just what our characters are doing.


Example

The scientists who ran the lab stocked it with krill and small fish, preferring to let Penelope hunt for her supper.

Penelope was their star.

Oscar, on the other hand, lived on frozen shrimp and nutrition pellets. Other than an ugly plastic treasure chest and a forest of aquarium plants, he hadn’t even been given a place to hide. He’d spent weeks in that chest, pretending to be overcome by shyness. It was part of the plan, a way to lull Dr. Lab-coat into a false sense of security once he got out.

Oh yes. Oscar was breaking out.

Angela Teagardner ‘Eight Arms to Hold You’

Let’s get into it more below!


Techniques

While you can find stories everywhere, you can’t always find the interior world of characters in every story. That’s what makes fiction unique. Writers are able to give readers a special secret glimpse into the world we never usually see.

I like to think of the interiority of characters as their subtext. While you can characterize a person within your story as a jerk and terrible person, describing the interior world of this character can show a multifaceted type of awful that is chilling and memorable.

Where I see a lot of writers (myself included) fall off the trail of describing their characters’ interiority is trying not to tell the reader how their characters are feeling. It makes sense. Show don’t tell is one of the oldest writing ‘rules’ out there.

But it’s wrong.

Good, professional writing uses both showing and telling in a blend that allows the reader to be swept away by the storytelling without having to guess at what is going on within the story for the characters.

Another area hard for writers to get to is that deeper area of characterization where their characters’ interiors dwell. Too often, writers spend their time describing what their characters look like, how they act, and what they want without digging past all of that into their subconscious needs and desires—the places only the author can go.

Personally, I like asking my characters deep penetrating questions or spending a day with them inside their head while they go about their life. Other writers prefer to journal as their characters to try and delve past the superficial or exterior and into their characters’ interior world.

If you’re unsure of where to start to find your characters’ interior worlds, freewrite as a particular character. You can craft a whole new story or just allow them to make their own story on the page. Like with the journaling method, freewriting as your character allows you to find their voice and interior world without the constraints of the story they fit in.


Exercise

Write a new story of up to 2,000-words where the character’s interior world is the main driving point of your story. Have your character start out extremely proud. Show and tell it on the page in a variety of ways, but as the scenes and story progress, make them become ashamed.

Craft your character’s interior world with as much detail as you would the external world. Who is your character inside? How does being proud actually make them feel?


Resources

  1. Indirection of Image: Revealing the Interiority of Characters
  2. An Interiority Definition and Why it Matters
  3. Creating a Character Through Interiority in Writing
  4. Interiority Complex
  5. Balance: Interiority and Exteriority in Writing and the Writing Life

Write Better, Right Now’s topics from January:


If you were able to learn something new today, consider subscribing below to At Home Pro Writers to continue getting writing advicelinks to open pitch callsultimate writing guides, and more. Or check out the writing and editing masterclasses I offer! And if you need a stellar creative writer or editor, let me know while my calendar is still open.

Please don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me your thoughts on your characters’ interior worlds or how you use them in your writing! Catch you next week for our Write Better, Right Now post on physically describing your characters.

9 thoughts on “Write Better, Right Now: Interior World of Characters

  1. These topics are killer. They’re exactly the thing I’m looking for as a writer, and not the typical ‘remove all adverbs’ advice. I’ve been meaning to differentiate my characters through their observations lately, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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