Monday, March 16, 2015

INTROSPECTION: Advantages and Pitfalls

Janet here. I could write passages of introspection/internal monologue until Mary’s cows come home. I love to crawl into my characters’ heads and share what they’re thinking, how they view the world and better yet, how they view others. I especially enjoy writing and reading thoughts of the push-pull of attraction and resistance in romance novels, as when the hero hunk is threatening the feisty heroine’s livelihood and she’s furious at herself for reacting to this menace. And trying desperately to keep him from knowing.
Oh, yes, introspection is a wonderful tool for writers.

Advantages of Introspection

Introspection can bring our characters alive. Especially when their thoughts are different than their words or reveal hidden motives. Or when their goals are in conflict with their values. Minds are a veritable treasure trove!
Introspection can reveal a secret. Don’t we all love being "in the know"? Left to wonder how the other character will handle the truth when s/he finds out?
Introspection can show Scene and Sequel. After the heroine fails to achieve her goal, her thoughts reveal how she recovers and formulates a new plan of action.
Introspection can show a character's weaknesses and strengths. Characters thoughts can show they're not honest with themselves or astute about others. Characters thoughts can show resilience, humor, loyalty and determination. Remember strengths carried too far often become weaknesses.   
 
Pitfalls of introspection
Overdoing introspection. As with all valuable tools in the writers kit, introspection can go on too long.  
 

If you've met someone, and instead of a two-way conversation, find yourself listening to a monologue, you may start looking for ways to escape. Readers have the advantage of skipping the passage without having to fake the need for a restroom break. Make the thoughts count. Make them essential to the story.

Introspection can make characters seem self-absorbed.

If you’ve ever examined your own feelings at length, especially hurt feelings, you probably can attest that going over and over the issue risks becoming self-absorbed. Let’s not turn off readers with narcissistic heroes and heroines.

Introspection can stop or slow the pace.

Long passages of internal monologue grinds the dialogue/action to a halt. Action keeps the reader turning pages. I’ve read dialogue interrupted with paragraph after paragraph of introspection that requires rereading the last sentence the character said in order to make sense of what s/he says next. Do not do this. If the thoughts are important--and they can be--give the character an activity that fits their goal and intersperse thoughts with actions. Even use the setting to show their state of mind.   

Introspection can be redundant.

Rehashing the same tired thoughts over and over again will make readers want to tear out their hair. Or the writer’s. LOL  This often happens in a romance because the writer is rehashing instead of escalating the conflict between the hero and heroine. Characters drive the story so their decisions and actions should create new rising conflict for the other character.


                

                 With all those pitfalls how can we use introspection appropriately?

Sprinkle introspection in. Writers can sprinkle in characters’ thoughts much as they do back story. Just a thought or two will go a long way. Sometimes introspection—or introspection with an action—is a clever way to identify the speaker while sprinkling in her thoughts, as in this passage from A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert:
She held out her hand for him to stop. Right there. Because as much as her heart ached for his nearness, she knew she’d only end up hurt. And her heart could only break into so many pieces. “I came to run a fashion show. Could you please let me by?”

Give introspection the wow factor. When the thought is something unexpected, even a secret, readers won’t skip a word. Often introspection can serve as a hook. Hero Ted's introspection from The Substitute Bride:
Night was falling, putting the farm in shadow, but Ted knew every fence, building and pasture. He’d earned all this off others’ pain. A straight flush had paid for the house. A full house repaired his barn and a four of a kind had bought his livestock.
 
Yep, the best poker player on the Mississippi, that had been him. Not that he’d planned on being “Hold ‘Em” Logan” when he’d joined the crew of that riverboat.

Readers already know why heroine Elizabeth despises gambling and she’s just married the guy. 
   
Use introspection to show the times. Fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy’s introspection from Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns:
I just didn’t think I could stand any more mourning. For three whole weeks of summer vacation they hadn’t let me play baseball or go fishing or anything. I couldn’t mention the camping trip I’d been planning all spring with Pink Pedmore and Lee Roy Sleep and Smiley Snodgrass, and I had missed a chance to ride in a Buick automobile all the way to Atlanta. Pink’s uncle over in Athens invited him and me to go so we could fix his flat tires and push the car up hills—and out of ditches if it rained and the roads got slick. Pink went, but Mama wouldn’t let me go. Also, I didn’t get to go downtown for the Fourth of July parade, and they hadn’t let me read the funny paper since the day Granny passed on.
Burns paints a detailed picture of the confining customs of mourning in the early 1900s and the difficulties driving the first automobiles. This brought the times alive for me.      

Make introspection emotional. I love how sparse yet emotional the hero’s thoughts are in this passage from Unwritten by Charles Martin:
My insides hurt. Like they hadn't in a decade. Old wounds, picked open. The scab and scar, peeled back. I turned, looked away. Pain is pain whether it’s yours or someone else’s. It’s one thing to know it as your own. It’s something else to watch it crack someone else down the middle.
The last sentence caught my breath. We writers often use character’s physical reactions to create emotion like a knotted throat or quivering chin, but if we’re not careful these reactions become overused and clichéd. If you're thinking this passage is telling, you'd be right, at least in part, but Martin isn't cheating the reader of an emotional payoff. Instead he's carefully selected words that pack a wallop. 

If you're also thinking that I'm approving "it"--one of my bugaboo words--I did say that upon occasion it and there can be powerful. But when the reader isn't sure what the it refers to, then that's lazy writing.  

Make introspection fit the character, who s/he is, what her occupation is, what his view of the world is. Matt Walker’s introspection in this passage from The Bride Wore Spurs:
A young inexperienced female boss was about as welcome to cowpokes as a rattler in the bunkhouse. How long before Hannah learned that truth the hard way?

Matt's thoughts in this last paragraph of the scene fits his occupation of rancher. Note how introspection serves as a hook.

Introspection is not the only way to show what a character is thinking.  We can show his thoughts through his actions, dialogue, silence, physical reactions, expressions. But the blessing of introspection is that books are the only place—besides our own heads—where we are privileged to know a character’s thoughts. 
  
How does all this fit into SpeedBo?

SpeedBo is Seekerville’s push month for writing or revising fast. If we use introspection effectively, we will save time and not have to ax our precious words later.

More importantly, we writers need to look at our own internal monologue. Sometimes we feed our minds self-defeating garbage. We wouldn't go out to the city dump for a meal, but we will feed our minds platter after platter of toxic negativity. Remember that you're a writer, a terrific writer, who has a story only you can tell. You can finish that book and polish it until it shines. So go forth and SpeedBo! 

I brought eggs, ham and English muffins, juice and coffee for breakfast. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card. 

153 comments :

  1. Thanks, Janet. I'm having a hard time reading THE LAST QUEEN OF SHEBA because it's written in DPOV. I loved your post, and would love to win the gift card!

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  2. Yeah, I can wax eloquent with the introspection, I think it's because when I first started out, my critters were all like, these people have no emotions, and Introspection was the way I fixed that problem.....so sometimes I think I overcompensate for my newbie mistakes by going overboard with the thinking.

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  3. Janet, I love to write introspection, but I end up deleting a lot of it because I need to get on with the action. Also, if you dislike conflict, it's much easier to add introspection than make your characters struggle and suffer.

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  4. I'm another who can overdo the introspection. When I need to cut my word count, internal monologues are the first places I look, especially those of my hero.

    I've learned, after twenty-seven years of asking Gwynly what he's thinking, that men don't think about things, mull them over and analyze them to death the way I do. My guy often answers my "Whatcha thinkin' about?" question with "Nothing." If only I could master the art of thinking about nothing. Sure would come in handy when I'm in bed at night attempting to fall asleep and my mind is racing or my characters are chatting away. :-)

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  5. Great post Janet. I love reading introspection as it allows me to get more acquainted with the character.

    I would love to be entered for the gift card. Thank you for the chance.

    Good luck in meeting your goals this week everyone. Speedbo on...

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  6. I love Cindy W. for saying she loves reading introspection because I give her plenty!!!!!

    SIGH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD... :)

    This is such a difficult balance for me, and thank God for editors who rein me in.

    Janet, great thoughts!

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  7. Keli Gwyn, LOL! I love the image of cute Keli puzzling over Gwynly's thoughts which are... in the end... non-existent.

    And thus sums up the relationships of men and women.

    LAUGHING!!!!

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  8. Morning Janet,
    This is my favorite breakfast ever, virtual or otherwise.
    Don't enter me in the drawing, I just won the $25 Amazon card, yay, plan to redeem it this week.
    KB

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  9. I use introspection a lot as "sequel" and I'm trying to use it to move the story forward. I use it some for Michael, the hero in my Oregon Trail story, because he really can't tell anyone what happened back in Ireland until the Reveal when all you-know-what breaks loose. It is tricky and I'm trying not to have it be repetitive.
    Filed my Genesis entry last night, a half hour after deadline because there was a problem with the photo. They were very gracious. On to the Unpublished Maggies!
    This week I get to redeem my $25 gift card.
    KB

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  10. Good morning, Janet. Great post. I'm one of the people who skips really long sections of introspection when I read, so I tend to forget to include it in my own writing as much as I should. However, I am slowly learning how to sprinkle it in, giving hints into past events and character.

    Speedbo update: The weekend was crazy busy with a baby shower and family visiting, but I managed to sneak in a bit of writing each morning. I'm still behind on my goal. I absolutely can not turn off my inner editor; it just doesn't work for me. So I've decided my new goal is to write daily and (at minimum) complete the first three chapters and synopsis.

    My shoulder surgery is tomorrow. I'm really dreading it, but then again who looks forward to surgery? My physical therapist said she's had shoulder surgery and back surgery, and the shoulder surgery was much more painful than the other. :( I really could have done without hearing that.

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  11. Sometimes I find what I wrote as introspection makes my book stronger and adds conflict if I turn it into dialogue.

    Love your post today, Janet.

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  12. Hi Marianne, can you share how deep point of view is making the story hard to read? Writers need to know.

    Janet

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  13. Hi Janet,

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing. This is definitely a keeper.

    Hope you have a great day!

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  14. Hi Melissa, that makes sense to me. Balance is key. Introspection, actions, dialogue, physical reactions all reveal the character's state of mind, but getting inside his head is so much fun for me that I want to spend too much time there.

    I remember the advice that we can't stop an anxious thought from entering our minds but we can stop it from building a nest there. That's what I need to remember with my characters. No nests allowed. LOL

    Janet

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  15. Hi Cara, you hit the nail on the head. I think we write a lot of introspection that we later cut because getting inside our characters heads helps us get to know them. But, we need to push that character out of his head and into the fray.

    Janet

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  16. More importantly, we writers need to look at our own internal monologue. Sometimes we feed our minds self-defeating garbage. We wouldn't go out to the city dump for a meal, but we will feed our minds platter after platter of toxic negativity.


    AMEN!!!!

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  17. Hi Keli, your comment made me grin from ear to ear. Men are not like us. As writers we need to remember that difference, especially when writing introspection. Thanks for pointing that out!

    Janet

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  18. Hi Cindy,

    Looks like we all like to read and write characters thoughts. Don't you sometimes wish you could be inside someone's head? And really know what they're thinking? Then again, maybe not. LOL

    Joining your cheerleading for Speedboers.

    Janet

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  19. Janet, I have made the mistake of going the other way with NO introspection which has it's own issues. Thanks for the reminder of what it is great for!

    Put me in for the drawing.

    Peace, Julie

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  20. Ruthy, Wish that editor inside our heads could shout a warning when we overdo introspection. The reason I would need an editor for writing Indies.

    Janet

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  21. Good morning, Kaybee!

    You're wise to use the hero's thoughts to forward the plot by showing his reaction and decision after things got worse in the previous scene. Excellent point!

    Congrats on entering the Genesis! And have fun with that Amazon gift card!

    Janet

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  22. Hi Rhonda, we may be twins separated at birth but by a lot of years. LOL Like you, I've given up on trying not to edit as I write, but that doesn't mean we can't be productive.

    I will be praying for your shoulder surgery and recovery. Is this rotator cuff? If so, I've known several who have done great with it. Take your meds and do whatever the doctor/therapist tells you.

    Hugs, Janet

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  23. Good morning!

    I've used introspection as backstory a lot during Speedbo because I didn't have my story planned out as well as I should. As I'm writing I'll think of more "why's" and I joint them down. Then I highlight them w/a comment because I know it will have to be sprinkled in.

    Good timing on this post.
    And I love your comments on how negativity can affect us as writers too.

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  24. Rose, I wish I'd thought to add that point to my post! I do the same! Often thoughts can be turned into dialogue, which provides a great opportunity for conflict between the hero and heroine. Excellent point! Thanks!

    Janet

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  25. Good morning, Jackie.

    Have a great day. A great week!

    Janet

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  26. Tina, sounds like we've both been there. Philippians 4:8-9 is a great Scripture for writers.

    Janet

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  27. Good morning, Peaceful Julie. Yes, introspection is a great tool if used with a gentle hand. Wishing you all the best on walking that balance beam.

    Janet

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  28. Good morning, Connie. I think most writers learn a lot about their characters by writing their thoughts. As you say, we just need to remember to sprinkle it in, not dump it on the reader.

    I need a sign at my computer. Only positive thoughts allowed. Especially important in the middle when I'm fighting that sag.

    Janet

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  29. Hi Janet,
    I enjoyed your introspection excerpts and like you that one by Charles Martin made my breath catch too.

    I was just about to applaude and agree with your final quote, but TINA beat me to it, so now I'm agreeing with you both :)

    Thank you for the sympathy card, that was so very kind of you, it meant a lot and really blessed me.

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  30. Janet, what a fabulous post! I've heard many times that writers shouldn't use too much introspection. But I love the way you show the times when it's appropriate.

    And, thank you for the important reminder to watch what I feed my thoughts. Because that feeds my heart. This has been a hot button for years for me. :) I'm thinking on Philippians 4:8--And finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is of good repute, praiseworthy, think on these things.

    Paraphrase according to Jeanne (my Bible's upstairs, and I'm not :) ).

    Great post today, Janet.

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  31. I love reading each and every post while drinking my coffee. Have a good day everyone!

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  32. I loved this post, Janet. Most of all I loved the last paragraph about our internal monologue. It's the self defeating garbage we feed ourselves that is hardest to get rid of. Another post I'll be printing out to keep near me on my desk. Oh and as for SpeedBo, I actually threw out over 3k in words (argh) and started a completely new project. But that's ok - it seems those 'wasted' words helped me solve a problem with the sequel to my book released in August. I've been wanting to get that rolling for some time now. Thanks!

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  33. LOL, Janet, I'm smiling because of overuse of introspection is the very first mistake I made when I started writing.

    I'm the type of person who talks in her head (and talks to herself out loud) SO MUCH, that it just comes naturally to me, but WHOA, did the judges and critique partners nail my butt to the wall on this one.

    My first book, A Passion Most Pure, originally started out with SEVEN pages of introspection until judges and crit partners stressed I needed to get the action up front. So the kiss that happened on page 7 got moved to page 4, then page 3, and finally page 1.

    So, YES, introspection in abundance AND especially solid introspection in the beginning pages can stall a book at the gate, especially with today's audience of instant-gratification tekkies.

    I mean, Chuck Dickens got away with it, sure, but not everybody's a Chuck Dickens! So for writers today, opening-scene introspection in excess is more the "the worst of times" than the "best of times" in my opinion.;)

    GREAT POST, my friend!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  34. Janet, great post! :-)

    I like being inside a characters head and hearing his/her thoughts. I don't even mind long passages as long as the character is interesting.

    This post goes into my keeper file to remind me of the proper times to use introspection, and when not to use it.

    Speedbo count so far: 16,217 words.

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  35. KELI GWYNN SAID: "I've learned, after twenty-seven years of asking Gwynly what he's thinking, that men don't think about things, mull them over and analyze them to death the way I do. My guy often answers my "Whatcha thinkin' about?" question with "Nothing." If only I could master the art of thinking about nothing."

    LOL, KELI, you NAILED it, girlfriend and Viva la difference!! ;)

    TINA SAID: "ore importantly, we writers need to look at our own internal monologue. Sometimes we feed our minds self-defeating garbage. We wouldn't go out to the city dump for a meal, but we will feed our minds platter after platter of toxic negativity."

    PREACH IT, SISTER!! :)

    HUGS,
    Julie

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  36. Rhonda, praying your surgery goes well and that you make a Speedbo recovery.

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  37. How I loved "until Mary's cows come home." I can also get lost for 3-4 pages in a character's head, and then have to go back and grab the highlights in a couple paragraphs, mixing in some kind of action good post. I wish you ALL a great Speedbo week!

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  38. Hi Tracey.

    I had never read a Charles Martin book before Unwritten but now intend to read more. Got this one at ACFW, a freebie. Proof that giveaways work.

    When we've been there, we understand how much a card means. God bless you.

    Janet

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  39. Jeanne, thanks for sharing the Philippians passage! It's perfect for this post. Too often we berate ourselves with pessimistic thoughts. What we think becomes our reality. Let's give ourselves a beautiful, creative place to write for Him.

    Janet

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  40. Hi CathyAnn,

    Coffee is the perfect accompaniment for any post. For anything really. :-)

    Janet

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  41. Such a wonderful post, Janet!

    Sometimes I overdo introspection and then have to cut-cut-cut! Or turn it into dialogue, which is often effective.

    Love the excerpts you used today. Especially about seeing another's pain. Great writing!

    Hugs!

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  42. Hi Christina,

    Thanks for sharing your SpeedBo journey. We writers don't always go from A-Z. Often there's backtracking, deleting or starting over. Congrats on seeing what you need to do for your sequel. No words are ever truly wasted. Proof that when our eyes are open for good, there's usually a silver lining.

    Janet

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  43. I'm a redundant introspector and not proud of it. LOL Mind you, slashing all the redundancy does help the word count go down. In case you didn't get that, I tend to overindulge in redundant introspection...wait, is that me being redundant? Oh, I'm hopeless!!!!

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  44. Hi Julie, thanks for sharing. I expect most of us have also written long passages of introspection/backstory.

    Smiling at your witty Charles Dickens analogy. Do you think he'd have been published by today's editors?
    :-)

    Janet

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  45. Mary Hicks, love the SpeedBo recovery prayer! Count me in!

    Janet

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  46. F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The rich are different from us."
    Ernest Hemingway, 'Yes, they have more money."


    Hi Keli:

    Men are thinking all the time. Often about threat assessment. Often about things they do not want to talk about.

    When you ask a man:

    "Whatcha thinkin' about?"

    And he answers: "Nothing."

    What he means is: "Nothing I want to talk about. I rather just keep thinking about it."

    Vince

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  47. Too much introspection is one of my downfalls. Thanks for the tips Janet. I'd rather have the struggle going on inside my character's heads than with each other. That' so painful!

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  48. Hi Mary H, happy dancing for your Speedbo word count! Go you!

    Great advice to keep that introspection lively. No boring characters allowed, even in their thoughts. LOL

    Janet

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  49. Great post, Janet!

    Like Cara Lynn said earlier, In these Speedbo revisions, I find myself wimping out of conflict to use more introspection, which is definitely conflicted, but my scenes don't last very long when there's not a lot of outer conflict. :D

    Thanks for sharing the advantages and pitfalls of introspection!

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  50. Excellent advice, Janet! Rehashing my characters' thoughts is an area I constantly need to be aware of. It's an easy crutch to rely on when I'm uncertain what needs to happen next to move the story forward. Or just need to fill up some page space!

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  51. Hi LoRee,

    You could write this post. I also have to go back and condense, tossing out the chaff and leaving the gold nuggets from a character's introspection. Then toss in some action. Write it then fix it. Go you!

    Janet

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  52. Hi Debby, I loved Charles Martin's entire book, though as this excerpt suggests, the book is not all sweetness and light. A very powerful tale powerfully told.

    Janet

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  53. Hi Kav, I'm chuckling that you even smacked yourself for a redundant comment. Yep, some of us--me included--have a wee bit of an issue.

    Janet

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  54. Ah, Vince, you are letting a secret out of the bag for us ladies. Thanks! I suspected no one could have a truly empty head. You guys must even see the question as a threat. LOL

    Janet

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  55. Vince, thank you so much for your insight. It makes perfect sense to me. I feel like a floodlight just came on. (Yes. This is bigger than a mere light bulb moment.)

    At those times when I ask Gwynly, "Whatcha thinkin' about?" and he replies, "Nothing," I know instinctively that he is indeed thinking about something. However, he's responded this way so many times that I began to believe him. Now I know what's really going on and can better interpret those supposed nothings as important somethings and wait patiently for him to process his thoughts and reach a point where he is willing and able to share them with me. This insight will help me not only in my writing but in my marriage as well.

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, as you so often do. I'm one grateful Seekervillager!

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  56. Hi Cindy. Yes open conflict causes characters pain, but then that's the point, right? Conflict is story. The best part is we get to show conflict openly but also in internal thought. That makes our characters come alive. Makes them so real that they leap off the page and into our hearts.

    Janet

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  57. Natalie, don't wimp out. Raise the stakes on your characters. Hurt them. Make them pay. Cause them trouble, as long as that trouble fits the story and isn't contrived.

    The way to make sure conflict isn't contrives is for the character to have a goal in each scene. From that goal comes the opportunity for failure, for pain, for trouble. Then let them think about that failure. But only so long before they figure out the new step, what they'll do next to get what they want.

    Janet

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  58. Hi Myra, I wonder if writers are more apt to examine themselves than non-writers, the reason it's so natural to write long passages of our characters' thoughts.

    As you say, the key is awareness. The longer we write the more we know our tendencies and how to bring the story into balance.

    Janet

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  59. Keli, well said. I wonder if the more we ask what they're thinking, the more resistant they become.

    Vince, care to comment?

    A pet peeve of mine is when I share something important with my dh and he doesn't respond. Not a word. Now Vince, I wonder if he's afraid to, like whatever he says could get him into deep do-do. LOL

    Janet

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  60. Fabulous post! You really hit the nail on the head.

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  61. Thanks Heidi. And others have hammered the nail in with their savvy comments. Love Seekerville!

    Janet

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  62. Hi Janet:

    You wrote:

    "Keli, well said. I wonder if the more we ask what they're thinking, the more resistant they become.

    Vince, care to comment?

    A pet peeve of mine is when I share something important with my dh and he doesn't respond. Not a word. Now Vince, I wonder if he's afraid to, like whatever he says could get him into deep do-do. LOL"


    Vince said:

    I'm a philosopher. I snorkel thru deep do do. I think that is my normal state on Seekerville. : )

    Here are some man-cave clues:

    1) A man is very likely to be thinking about the blonde that was just on the last tv commercial. (Or heaven forbid is on right now!) Men are not going to talk about any other woman they are thinking about. Why do you think there are so many beautiful women in advertisements? Are they there so men won't notice and think about them?

    2. If you share something important with a man and he asks you to tell him more, he is opening the floodgates to female 'trouble talk'. That's the last thing a man wants to hear. Women love 'trouble talk' -- men hate it!!! (A man will never open these floodgates twice!)

    According to female communication experts, female trouble talk is not primarily intended to convey information but rather to share camaraderie and to feel better. It tends to go on forever, be highly repetitive, and produce no conclusions other than a future call. I teach communications but this info comes from women communication experts. (See Deborah Frances Tannen.)

    I hope this has been helpful and no one gets a headache from reading it. : 0 )

    Vince

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  63. Introspection is like a lot of other spices in my writing/cooking toolbox. Definitely needed to bring out the flavors of the conflict and characters ... but too much makes the story/scene unpalatable or unbalanced. Sprinkle as needed.

    SPEEDBO update: Frowning here because I didn't get as much written as I wanted last weekend. Too much family interference while trapped in a hotel room between State basketball games. But, I'm cracking my fingers and ramping up to make progress this week ... between loads of stinky, sweaty laundry.

    Write on everyone!

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  64. These are great tips to keep the writer and the reader from pulling out their hair, Janet. I love how Katie sprinkled her introspection. Great examples!

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  65. As a very introspective person myself, I completely understand the problems inherent in too much introspection where there needs to be communication

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  66. I adore character introspection, perhaps too much! The great part about putting some of it into dialogue is the conflict that results. Great tips, Janet. Thank you so much!

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  67. Great post, Janet (as always!).

    And I loved reading Vince's insights, also.

    I've had my male characters think about things I know men care about - protecting, providing and proving (that he's a man - gets the guy in trouble sometimes), but I tend to leave out the thoughts about females.

    Men are wired so differently. I just tell myself that men probably think about females as much as we think about food.

    And you're right about introspection. It's a great tool when done well. Food for thought as I dive into my Speedbo word count today!

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  68. Yikes, Vince, I have a headache from slapping myself upside the head. ;-) Okay, a man thinking about the blonde on the commercial is just the way men are made. Though not fair that you men always think blonde instead of brunette.

    As to trouble talk, if men understand that women share to feel better, then men should learn to respond with a hug or "I understand." Hey, mine will if I ask him to. LOL

    This may be the reason female romance writers create heroes who react in appropriate, not necessarily realistic ways and romance novels fly off the shelves. If so, viva the difference.

    Janet

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  69. Hi Janet:

    When it comes to the pro and cons of the use of introspection in fiction, as you so ably pointed out in your post, it may depend on the mix of introspection types that are being utilized.

    1) the author tells the reader what the character thinks. This is really internal description/landscape.

    2) the author shows the reader the actual pov character's thoughts using italics and quotes. This is very direct because it is the same info the pov character gets as well, that is, he reads his own thoughts.

    3) the author uses sneaky indirect discourse to make the reader think the character is providing the thoughts while it is actually still the author's doing. Jane Austen did this all the time. Sneaky good!

    4) there is true 'questioning' introspection where the pov character figuratively steps back away from himself and looks down at his own thoughts and makes a judgment about those thoughts and/or his current behavior.

    "What's wrong with me? Why would I say that? Do I really care for her and just won't admit it? Do I really fear commitment?"


    I think the key here, as you might expect me to say, is to keep the writing rewarding for the reader to read. As long as the reader is enjoying the reading experience, I don't believe the percentage of introspection matters. The question is can you be that rewarding? Can you write funny, highly entertaining, internal monologue? (It helps if you can write romantic comedy with cowboys.)

    That reminds me. I have to get back to editing RPP. I'm like the rabbit in the race with the turtle. The Speedbo turtle is way ahead of me. Can I count the words I wrote here on Seekerville today towards my Speedbo total? : )

    Vince

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  70. Hi Candee, I can hear your knuckles cracking from here. :-)

    Balance in life is as important as balance in writing. You were supportive of your basketball players. Good for you.

    Now it's Monday, go get 'em, Tiger!

    Janet

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  71. Hi Jill,

    Thanks! We do our best to ensure that we keep our hair. :-)

    Janet

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  72. Sarah, another great point. We need to make characters talk to one another, especially about the hard stuff. Instead of just keeping them thinking.

    Janet

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  73. Good afternoon, Meghan. You are so right! Good dialogue draws the hero and heroine together and shoves them apart. That push-pull of conflict and attraction.

    Janet

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  74. Hi Janet:

    You wrote:


    "As to trouble talk, if men understand that women share to feel better, then men should learn to respond with a hug or 'I understand.' Hey, mine will if I ask him to. LOL "

    This will not work. If all the man does is say, 'I understand' or 'Don't worry you're little head over it', of 'Let go, Let God', and he does this without hearing an hour of trouble talk, then it will be treated as being dismissive of the woman's feelings. The man has to hear to whole talk. Therein lies the rub. It takes more than a hug from the big lug. : ))

    You also wrote:

    "This may be the reason female romance writers create heroes who react in appropriate, not necessarily realistic ways and romance novels fly off the shelves. If so, viva the difference."

    I agree. This is way I wrote a whole post on why men cannot write really good romances. They do not get it. Also, remember this: these wonderful heroines almost always have changed the hero. (Character ARC and all).

    This is all well and good if the change comes before marriage for in real life 'they don't change' after they are married.

    Vince

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  75. Hi Jan, I'm laughing that women think about food as much as men think about women. Guess that proves we women are on way too many diets. I wonder if food ever overtakes women as a man's main focus? Vince?

    Janet

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  76. Vince, wonderful examples of the different types of introspection. And the importance of rewarding the reader with whatever we write, whether introspection or dialogue or action. Though I still contend that TOO MUCH introspection slows the pace.

    No, your words here don't count toward your SpeedBo total. Trust me, I'm very tempted to agree. :-)

    Janet

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  77. I agree with Jackie, this is a keeper. Balance is everything and avoiding overuse of the same ole same ole. Charles Martin is fabulous. I think I've read all his books. He was at Barnes and Noble recently. A very nice man.

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  78. Great post. I will keep it in mind as I continue. I wrote half my goal for today and then power went off. Hoping it come back on. If no after my nap I'll carry the lap top to the porch and write. Life has it's little adventures.

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  79. Janet - I had to learn to write introspection. Before I even knew what it was called. I noticed I just had all this dialogue and no "thinking" like there was in books I read.

    Adding it in has made a world of difference in my stories.

    You Seekerville gals rock! I Need a filing cabinet to store all these great lessons in.

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  80. Hi Janet! Cool that you got to meet Charles Martin. I want to read more of his books. Will go look him up to see what he looks like.

    Only for a minute, then back to revising.

    Janet

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  81. Hi Walani Wahl, sorry about the power outage. Glad you have the option to go outside and write. Get the nap so you're raring to go!

    Janet

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  82. Hi Terri,

    Thanks! No need to print the posts. Seekerville archives are at your fingertips. Hoping our tags help you find what you need when you need it.

    Janet

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  83. I don't know that Love Inspired is ready for the hero's real thoughts about females, LOL!

    Vince, LOVE IT!

    And laughing because you're probably right.

    Oh, blast!!!!

    And Jan Drexler, yes, yes, yes....

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  84. Christina Lorenzen, I used to be nervous when I threw out work... Now I just sigh, scold myself internally and hit DELETE with more vengeance than needed, I'm sure.

    I love that you jumped right back in with something else! YES!

    Janet's right, no written word is truly wasted. We learn, we reach, we grow.

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  85. Oh my, JANET, what a good post.

    Tina and Tracey already pointed out your wonderful quote about feeding our minds self-defeating garbage. That one stopped me in my tracks ... in a good way. So did the last sentence in the quote from "Unwritten." The impact was so strong, I read the quote several times, slowing down and hoping to figure out how he accomplished that effect.

    Thanks for the quote from "Cold Sassy Tree." What a wonderful book that was. The quote makes me want to read it again. After Speedbo :-) AND after "The Bride Wore Spurs" ... sounds like a good read!

    Nancy C

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  86. Introspection! I love this post, especially the examples from others' writings. Thanks! Oh, and I'd love the gift card.

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  87. Ooh, yeah, rehashing . . . I do it all the time in my head (I can go for hours, especially if I'm trying to sleep), so it's so easy to have characters do it too. But not particularly beneficial. To anyone.

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  88. Hi Nancy C. Isn't it fabulous when a single line of prose can impact us that much?

    What a special gift we writers have been given to put words on the page. With the hope that something we write will make our readers feel emotion or help them with an issue or just entertain them. Humbling, isn't it?

    Janet

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  89. Ruthy, women readers want the hero to think they're the blonde in the commercial. :-)

    Janet

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  90. Janet, I loved this post! Packed full of helpful examples and advice. I also loved the examples you shared. I just love Charles Martin's writing! And of course, yours, too. :)

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  91. Hi Leola. Glad you enjoyed the examples in the post.

    Janet

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  92. Also, I think one of my problems is that as I'm writing the first draft, I'm also working out my characters' backstories--which comes out in introspection. A lot of that has to be edited out!

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  93. Rachael, I'm grinning at your savvy comment. You are so right! That ongoing internal monologue in our heads that keeps us awake at night, if found in our books would put readers to sleep.

    Janet

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  94. Thanks Missy! I think you're exactly right. We write too much introspection when we're getting to know our characters and their back story. The reason revising is vital.

    Janet

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  95. My internal dialogue at the moment is

    The weather is so beautiful and I want to sit on the porch and read.

    No you must sit at the computer and write for 30 minutes. Then you may reward yourself and read one chapter of Julie Lessman's book Surprised by Love.

    Then it is back to writing the exciting scene for today.

    The Power is back on.

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  96. Hi Wilani,

    Boy, that's strong conflict. Pretty day or not, hope the determined writer won. Know you'll be a winner reading Julie's book.

    Good to hear you've got your power back!

    Janet

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  97. If you've met someone, and instead of a two-way conversation, find yourself listening to a monologue -

    Uh-oh.

    And that's all I'm going to say about that!

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  98. Janet - great post! As a reader, I like introspection, up to a point but it can bog down the storyline so I like it when the writer balances it with the "need" and moves on! If there is too much, I just skip it and get on with the story - you know what I mean! I know the author has struggled with the words but if it bores me too much, I want to get on with the story! I certainly like SOME introspection though :)

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  99. Thanks for another great article. I'm learning a lot this month. Total Speedbo for the month so far at 10,000. If there's a chapter critique this week put me in the drawing please.

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  100. Pam, sometimes silence says a lot. Think you learned that from this post, right?

    Janet

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  101. Valri, you underscore the importance of remembering the reader when we write our stories.

    Vince would call this rewarding the reader.

    You rewarded me by verifying that readers skip long passages of introspection when they are focused on learning what happens next.

    Janet

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  102. Hi Bettie,

    Huge congrats on your SpeedBo word count!

    No critique offered today but check the Weekend Edition for all prizes.

    Janet

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  103. Ah, introspection. Yeah, I've definitely seen it overused, but like everything else you need a balance.

    I'm probably a little on the sparse side, just little caustic comments here and there from the POV character.

    Cara's right, though, it's easier for me to write introspection than conflict, sometimes, so I've gotta be careful about that.

    Would love to be in the drawing :)

    Pam Jernigan

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  104. Being a very introspective individual, I think I tend to overdo it with my characters, so I end up leaving it out all together! I'd love the gift card!

    Speedbo update: I didn't write at all yesterday but more than made up for it today! The words were just pouring out today :) My characters and I made pies for Thanksgiving today ;) If I write as much tomorrow as I wrote today, I'll be over my monthly goal! I'm still hoping to win one of the Speedbo prizes! (Do we have to say we want to win, or is posting an update enough ?! )

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  105. Great information, Janet! I need to print this one out and keep it nearby. It's real easy for me to make the introspection redundant.

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  106. Hi Pam, I think a lot of us share the same issues with introspection. Great to know we're not alone.

    Janet

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  107. Janet said: "Smiling at your witty Charles Dickens analogy. Do you think he'd have been published by today's editors?"

    Wow, that's a tough one because that is SUCH a classic story with SUCH a classic first line that I'm thinking they would have ... with heavy edits, however! ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  108. Hi Becky,

    Congrats on all your hard work today!

    Your comment says you want to win today's prize. If you don't want to for some reason, then say that otherwise you're in the drawing. The SpeedBo update has you in for SpeedBo prizes. Good luck!

    Janet

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  109. LANI SAID: "My internal dialogue at the moment is: The weather is so beautiful and I want to sit on the porch and read. No you must sit at the computer and write for 30 minutes. Then you may reward yourself and read one chapter of Julie Lessman's book Surprised by Love.
    Then it is back to writing the exciting scene for today.
    The Power is back on."

    LOL, LANI ... you are SO cute, and what a clever comment that confirms to me you are an excellent writer! AND ... an excellent reader too ... ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  110. Hi Jamie, It's easy for me too. The reason why I love and need to revise.

    Janet

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  111. Charles Martin is my favorite male author! Am on a mission to read ALL of his books, and I think I have two to go!
    Thanks, Janet, for the A. card giveaway!!
    Speedbo on................

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  112. Janet,
    Love introspection and my favorite is saying one thing in dialogue and something else inside.

    A wise author told me the following:
    If a character can think it, he can say it.
    If he can say it, he can say it to the heroine.

    Just like life, it's the balance that gets us every time.

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  113. Janet, thank you for this post. When I started getting critiques of my writing, I, like so many beginning writers, used a lot of introspection in my opening chapter. Now, I've swung the other way and am getting comments that I actually need more backstory and introspection! Thanks for filling in some craft tips on weaving introspection into the story.

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  114. Yes, Janet...there's just too little action in this one...and since the reader can only see what he sees, hears what he hears or read his thoughts, it doesn't go so well. Some that I've read have had two characters, which is a bit better as the writer can flip from one to another atleast. Can you tell I like thrillers?

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  115. Hi Janet:

    I agree that introspection can slow down the action but a slower pace is not necessarily mutually exclusive with entertaining the reader.

    Introspection can also speed up the action. For a good example of this I suggest reading, Hank Phillippi Ryan’s, “Prime Time”, “Face Time,” “Air Time” or “Drive Time”. These action stories are all first person present POV. As such a great deal of time is spent in the heroine’s mind. She has to wisecrack, come up with interesting thoughts and insights, be funny, or be thinking something to keep the reader turning pages, almost all the time. I don’t think many authors could do this but Hank can do it. This series is an advanced course in introspection.

    BTW: When I was visiting the university in Stockholm, on all the hallway cork bulletin boards were notices like these: “Brunettes Welcome!” These were written in both English and Italian. The Swedes love brunettes. These were all club meeting notices or notices for other campus activities. They were not about dating.

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  116. It can be a tough balance! When I start to bore myself...I realize the introspection has gone on too long!

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  117. hi Janet
    been wanting to post a comment all day, but events have conspired against me. i believe i need to double check my MS for introspection and see if I've overdone it.

    of course, going through the comments section is almost as good as the post itself, especially when Vince shows up. I certainly enjoy his insights and the occasional peek into the male mindset.

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  118. EXCELLENT post, Janet - - and another one that I needed. I tend to overdo the introspection sometimes, I will admit. So after reading this post I'm ready to re-read my WIP to see areas where I might've overdone the introspection and can cut out some.
    I also loved your comments at the end about us not feeding ourselves negative thoughts - - I sure needed that too! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

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  119. Hi Jackie,

    Wow, you're a Charles Martin fan! I must read more of his.

    Janet

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  120. Hi Becke,

    I, too, love to show opposite thoughts from what the character says. :-)

    The wise advice shouts conflict. Love it!

    Janet

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  121. Good evening, Tanya. The word balance has come up all day. We writers walk the high wire carrying that heavy pole. We're writing Wallendas. :-)

    Janet

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  122. Hi Marianne, first person is tricky. Cold Sassy Tree, the story I gave an excerpt from, is first person. I love the story but you might not.

    Janet

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  123. Janet, this was amazing! I loved each and every example. Everything came alive! You have demonstrated introspection perfectly. I love introspection, because it really helps me read between the lines and really get to know a character.

    I'll be rereading, pinning and taking notes on this! Thank you so much! This will really help me as I work on my Speedbo writing!

    Speaking of, I am at 25655 so far. I am so excited about being on target and a little ahead with my writing goal of 1500 a day. That is all because of you all here!


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  124. Hi Vince,

    If you write first person, you'd better be great with introspection. And from your descriptions Ryan is.

    Cold Sassy Tree is in first person and I never tired of Will Tweedy's thoughts. So I know it can be done.

    Pleased that the Swedes appreciate brunettes. Probably for contrast. :-)

    Janet

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  125. Hi Sherri. LOL An author boring herself is never good. Falling asleep at the computer is even worse. Guilty of both upon occasion.

    Janet

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  126. Hi DebH, always lots to check for during revisions.

    Vince adds a lot of fun to Seekerville. No matter what he says, I do not believe he's in deep dodo here. Maybe his words don't match his thoughts. :-)

    Janet

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  127. Hi Patty Jo,

    Remind yourself that you're a writer. You can fix anything but a blank page. We tend to beat ourselves up, sometimes even believing that everyone else does this easily. Nope. It only looks that way after revisions.

    Janet

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  128. Hi Kelly. Wow, I'm impressed with all those words on the page! You're working hard and exceeding your daily goal. Glad the post helped.

    Janet

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  129. What a day! In spite of obstacles, I had a very productive day. I wrote the most I have ever written in one day 3,428. I am finding the closer I get to the end of the book, I am finding I don't want to stop writing. It is like I am compelled forward.

    Thanks for all the encouragement.

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  130. This is a great post Janet. I'm trying to keep introspection from taking over my story *sigh*.

    Speedbo update: Another *sigh* - I managed to get all of about 5 seconds of writing done today. Tomorrow is another day!

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  131. Janet, this was wonderful. I'm going to bookmark it and come back after Speedbo so I can study carefully.

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  132. This looks like a great post for me. I will have to go back and look at it later. I have been using what little free time I have to work on my Speedbo goal, so no time to read Seekerville. I will get caught up though.

    Please enter me for the gift card.

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  133. Janet, This was very helpful. I know some of my introspection during Speedbo will have to be shortened and honed in the next draft.
    Cindy Huff

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  134. Wilani!!! You are racing toward The End!!! Mega congratulations on that word count!

    Janet

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  135. Hi Loraine, life happens. Isn't it great that each day is a new beginning? SpeedBo on!!

    Janet

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  136. Hi Mary. Thanks for your encouraging words!

    Janet

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  137. Hi Sandy, You've got your priorities straight. SpeedBo on!

    Janet

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  138. Hi Cindy. Time to trim that introspection later when the draft is done. Best of luck!

    Janet

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  139. Thanks, Janet. You showed me what's wrong with yesterday's work - too much introspection without an action break. Enter me in the drawing, please.

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  140. Marianne, The Last Queen of Sheba was a good book but I read a few others at the same time.. eggs, ham and English muffins, juice and coffee for breakfast sounds good enough for lunch!
    Toss me in the dish for the GC please..

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  141. Yep, introspection is like a nice herb in a recipe, a little bit goes a long way.

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  142. Hi Patricia,

    Glad to help!

    You're entered.

    Janet

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  143. Hi Deanna, I'm intrigued that you read more than one book at once.

    You're in the drawing.

    Janet

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  144. Hi Christine,

    Thanks for the great analogy!

    Janet

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  145. I love your examples. These help me see what is most helpful to move the story along through introspection as well as the emphasis that EVERY word must be chosen carefully.
    Please put me in the drawing.
    Thanks.

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  146. I'm ready for that great breakfast! I admire anyone who can write a book. I sometimes have a hard time writing a letter!

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  147. Hi Linda,

    Yes, and it's not easy to have the perfect word and still get that story written under a deadline.


    Janet

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  148. Hi Patsy. I'm assuming you're a reader. Writers love readers!

    Janet

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  149. Janet, that 2nd to last paragraph is right on the money. Thank you for that! Been faithfully Speedbo-ing and sure appreciate Seekerville for hosting the event!

    It's really helping!!!

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  150. KC, you go girl!! SpeedBo on!

    Janet

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  151. Great post, Janet! I tend to go a bit too heavy on introspection, but it's a great way to get to know my characters, even if I end up cutting it. :)

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  152. Great post on introspection. Very informative!

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