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REWRITING: How to Avoid Too Much Introspection in Your Manuscript

By Beth K. Vogt

Let’s be honest with each other and admit that we all can get introspective at times – stuck in our heads as we ponder either a real-life problem or one our imaginary character is facing in our work-in-progress (WIP).

We mull over options. Debate pros and cons. Maybe we remember a first kiss … or having to say goodbye to someone.

As writers, we let our characters do the same thing. We let them brood – and we take our readers right along into the dark recesses of our character’s heads. Sometimes our POV character is in her head for just a moment or two. And then sometimes, our characters become overly self-absorbed. We write an entire scene – or scenes –from inside our POV character’s head.

The question is: How much introspection is too much – or when have you been in your character’s head for too long?

When you’re rewriting a manuscript, one thing to look for is scenes that are mostly, if not entirely, made up of your POV character thinking, thinking, thinking. Why? Because thoughts are not action. And readers turn the pages of our books when something is happening – not when the hero or heroine has become self-absorbed.

How do you rewrite an introspective scene? Ask yourself one simple question:

Who can my POV character talk to?

Dialogue is action, so get a conversation going. Figure out how to get someone else in the room with your character. Yes, you may have to change your setting to do this. So often we throw our characters into a car or room and let them think about (react) to an intense conversation or situation, rather than have them talk it out with someone else. If your character is driving, have them activate their Bluetooth (safe driving!) and call their closest friend and talk out what they’re feeling, what they’re dealing with, rather than just mulling over the situation.

Instead of having your character talk to their best friend or their Voice of Truth – the person who tells it like it is – bring the person your character is trying to avoid onto the page. Go ahead and write the scene and let the sparks fly!

What about the story you’re working on? Have you let your POV character become pensive? Are there any scenes that can be rewritten by getting your POV character out of their head and into a conversation with someone else?

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A women’s fiction novelist with Tyndale House Publishers, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award and ACFW Carol Award Winner and a 2015 RITA® finalist. She continued her destination wedding series with You Can’t Hurry Love and Almost Like Being in Love. Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.

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6 Responses to REWRITING: How to Avoid Too Much Introspection in Your Manuscript

  1. Joey Rudder says:

    Thank you, Beth. This is such a timely post. I’ve got so much to learn as I’m working on the second draft of my first novel. I’ve done what you suggested and brought a few people in on my main character’s “thoughts” for action, but I’m wondering if a character is really introverted is it okay to have a lot of inner thoughts going on? I don’t want it to drag down the action though. Any thoughts on balance between the two?

    Thank you for teaching this newbie! 🙂

    God bless!

  2. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Hi, Joey,
    I understand your dilemma with a really introverted character. Could there be one person that character opens up to? Could you put that character in 1st Person POV? That’s hard to write, I know, but it might shake things up a bit and 1st Person POV is inside a person’s head already. Also, make certain every scene inside your character’s head is absolutely necessary and not just rehashing the same old thing again and again — and that the scenes don’t go on and on for pages when a few well-written paragraphs would suffice.
    Consider too: flashbacks, which are action — but use those sparingly and don’t make them too long.

  3. Joey Rudder says:

    Thank you, Beth! I’ve actually written in 1st Person POV because I knew we needed to be inside her thoughts as much as possible. But I like the idea of having her open up to one character. There are a few she speaks to a little, but I know one she could allow “inside” her thoughts more. And it’s funny, I did notice I started to rehash the same flashback over and over so I cut it and saved it for a big punch at a crucial time when she needed to take a sharp turn in her healing. I’m going to use your advice and make sure I’m not going on and on, that I cut it down, and I’m going to have to check on my flashbacks…I may have too many.

    I sincerely appreciate your advice and words of wisdom! God bless you!

  4. Melanie says:

    Such great advice!

    I love these kinds of articles 😀

    Thank you.

  5. Great article. Thanks for the reminder that our characters need to talk about their problems rather than think about them.

  6. Joslyn says:

    Thank you for this post. I often struggle with thinking of ways to keep a story from getting stuck in the mud, so to speak. I have never thought of dialogue as action though. That is great advice.

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