Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Writers Should Read-Part 5 Inner Voice

I wonder what the girl in the picture to the left is thinking. Is she second guessing herself, or remembering her true love, the one not attending the wedding?  If only I could know the words she isn't saying I'd understand the photo.

A writing teacher once told me: write as if a camera were mounted on a character's head. If the character can't see, hear, do, feel, or taste then the thought/words can not be included. Good words.

But...what about the picture to the left? I want to know more than this is her wedding day, her bridesmaids are giggling on the other side of the room, and what the foliage smell like through the open window to the right.

As a writer, I want to show a deeper quality to my characters by opening the door to their inner thoughts and entice the reader to become engaged, or side with the character. A character's inner voice paints a story in 3D and in color. 

We want our readers to shout at a character when he/she makes a wrong choice or scream something like, "Over there! It's over there!" During this last reading challenge I slammed the book shut because I couldn't bear to read what happened next, obviously the character made the wrong choice. But one minute later I couldn't stand not knowing. I fumbled to find the page because I had to know what really happened.

Inner voice opens the door or turns the camera towards the brain of the character. What is the character thinking and not saying. What does the character want to do/wish he could say instead? 

This last week I read Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck and found many examples of inner voice. With Rachel's permission I have included a small sample from this wonderful book to use with each point:

1. page 140
     "Um, he dumped me." For a lawyer, Candace could be dense at time.

Although this story is done in third person, this line "for a lawyer, Candace could be dense at time" melted the fence between 1st and third person. It told me Elle's impression of Candace without a lengthy description or dialogue. The inner voice statement should be a short, concise, to the point perspective.

2. page 137/138
     Muttering to herself, Elle opened all the blinds, shoved open the windows, and clicked on the fan. By the pitch of the studio's shadow in the grass, she figured it to be late afternoon. 
     Angela Dooley suing her? What was wrong with that woman?

Obviously something bothered, Elle, she's shoving windows and muttering. The reader is invited into Elle's head to find out why. No letter is suddenly presented, no summons, no phone call to shed light on her agitation, the reader simply steps deep inside Elle's head to gain more than her POV, we feel her heart, her ache.

3. page 5/6
    "I won't be long." But the front door was blocked by Huckleberry Johns and his fish tank of eco art. Oh please, not tonight. 

The inner voice clarified the problem. We know the door was blocked and Elle couldn't get past. A simple excuse me could have solved the problem, right? Not in this case. Without the tagged on inner voice we wouldn't know Huckleberry needed much more than an "excuse me." He wanted hours of Elle's time.

4. page 39 (scene hint: Elle is house shopping with her fiance.)

     "Well, babe, what do you think?" Jeremiah clicked his phone closed and walked toward her.
    "It's big. Lovely." Too new, too cold. 

Characters can be elusive or seemingly polite, holding back true thoughts then getting hooked into something they don't want. This component of inner voice builds a relationship with the reader. Displaying the sarcastic thought popping into the character's head not only let's the reader stand next to the character, it lets the reader stand in the character's shoes. 

Here are some other tips for inner voice:

1. Inner voice is only from the POV character. 
2. Inner voice is not intended to be informative-the purpose is to build a relationship with the reader, clarify a problem, feel the character's heart and ache, is always short-concise-to the point.
3. Inner voice is not directional: statements like: walked up the stairs, raked their hair, opened the door, stomped across the room, laughed, cried, etc.  All of these tell an outward response which could be a cover-up and not the true feelings of the character. 

Inner voice is essential to forming a deep relationship between the reader and the character.

What examples can you share of inner voice?

Last week Angie, my Alley Cat friend, and Jeanne T, an Alley Cat pal joined me in the reading challenge. We had a great time connecting as friends. Won't you join me this week? I chose my next book: House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson. What book would you like to read in the next two weeks? email me at

Photos courtesy of

This blog post is by Mary Vee
Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes contemporary Christian fiction and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories.

Come Step into Someone Else's World with Mary's writing

To learn more about Mary, visit her blog
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Jeanne T said...

Mary, fabulous post! I learned a number of great tips. Forgive my ignorance here, but are the inner voice and deep POV the same thing?

This example is from Beth Vogt's Wish You Were Here. It's on p. 5. Allison is talking with Daniel, her fiance's brother who dropped in on her as she tried on her wedding dress. It's in Allison's POV.

"Too busy playing dress-up?" The disarming grin Daniel tossed over his shoulder took any potential sting out of his question. "I really do like the dress, by the way."
"You're a liar, but thanks." She tugged the fabric back in place. Stupid dress.

I loved your examples and your tips for creating great inner voice to connect with readers. Printing this one off. :)

Unknown said...

Mary, this post is fantastic! I loooved Love Starts With of my favorite Rachel Hauck books. I loved the samples you picked and the lessons you pulled from them...

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good question. Deep POV entails many things. Susan May Warren wrote an entire workbook on it. The inner voice would be but one component.

So you read Beth's new book. Awesome. Thanks for the example: Stupid dress. It sure tells a lot in only two words.

Anyone else have an example?

Mary Vee Writer said...

I am honored with your compliment.
Had some fun dialoguing with Rachel about this book. Seriously, I can't believe Elle fell for Jeremiah at first.

Rachel Hauck said...

Mary, thanks so much for using Elle excerpts today! I think writing in first person helped my close third POV.

Elle feel for Jeremiah in Sweet Caroline, well, kinda, near the end.

So for me, I lept into the relationship with shades of their love already in my heart. He was every woman's dream man... handsome, articulate, well dressed, confident, going places... but in the end, he was not for her.

So many woman fall for the Jeremiah's of the world. But hopefully there's a Heath waiting to talk sense into them.

Loved being here today!


Gabrielle Meyer said...

Great tips and examples, Mary! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by today, I feel blessed.
Sounds like I need to pick up Sweet Caroline.
And I think you're right, many girls fall for the Jeremiahs instead of looking for the gem within, that is a fault we have.
Sure appreciate your writing ministry.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by today. We sure enjoyed having you here on the Alley today. Be sure to stop by for some cyber chocolate before you leave. :)

Pepper said...

Nice post, Mary. I love 'sliding' in those thoughts, and I love the thought of a camera mounted. It's a good visual reminder to me :-)

For me, inner thoughts ADD so much.
Tension (when words and actions don't match)
Humor - (when the character describes how he/she REALLy feels about what's happening)
Suspense - when the character describes what they 'think' might happen.
SO MUCH! Love it!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Ooooo Pepper you said my inner thoughts that didn't make it into this post: products of inner thoughts.
And to our guests, Pepper does a fab job of incorporating inner voice in her works.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

GREAT post, Mary! I love getting a look into the inner voice. And I loved the excerpts from Rachel's book...which I've got to read! A hero with the name of Heath???? Sigh. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Yes, put his one on your to read list, and when you read the book you'll see he is what every girl really dreams.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Love this post, Mary -- and I love all sorts of dialogue! I'm also a huge fan of Rachel Hauck's. Have you read The Wedding Dress yet?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Its on my list, Beth.
I actually went to the store to get The Wedding Dress. Our store didn't have it in stock, but they had Love Starts with Elle. Figured I'd start there.
I still have your book on my list as well, Beth. Excited to read it.

Unknown said...

I love this!! I have read few books that have made me feel Oh, no you can't do that!!
Take Love comes Softly, She can't cook, its embarrassing, for her and you're like "Here let me show you, this is how you bake bread, it's not hard!!!"
raked their hair is soo, is such an excuse,an air filler.
[When your desperate to know what they're thinking]