Interior Monologue: The Enemy of Romance?

(Donald Maass will be conducting a special two-hour workshop based on The Fire in Fiction at RWA National in Washington D.C. Check the official schedule for time and location.)

Interior Monologue: The Enemy of Romance?
by Donald Maass

Do you skim some romance novels? You are not alone. Do you want readers to skim through yours? Well, duh. Who would?

How, then, do you ensure that readers will devour every word of your novels? The answer is a technique called “micro-tension”. This type of tension is not plot problems, or scene goals, but rather the constant, line-by-line tension that causes readers to worry what will happen in the next few seconds.

Micro-tension can be created in a thousand ways, big and small, but its application to interior monologue is especially important in romance fiction. Romance novels portray the inner life of their characters in rich detail. Intimacy is what romance readers crave and romance novels deliver…

…except of course when we are skimming. A frequent source of the problem is interior monologue that “churns”, meaning that it merely repeats thoughts and feelings that are already obvious to the reader.

Effective interior monologue adds fresh worries, new questions and previously unseen dimensions to the issues at hand. It is not inner turmoil. Inner turmoil makes characters weak and is tiresome to read. Unfolding new dimensions to problems, however, makes characters look smart. That kind of interior monologue is exciting to read. That stuff you don’t skim.

Look at it this way: In a passage of interior monologue are you merely going over what your heroine already feels? If so, then readers are likely to skim. Are you on the other hand adding apprehension, questions and inner conflicts that are new? Ah, now we want to read every word.


The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
by Donald Maass

Description: In his new book, New York literary agent Donald Maass illuminates the techniques of master contemporary novelists. Some authors write powerhouse novels every time. What are they doing differently on the page? Maass not only explains, he shows you how you can right away use the techniques of greatness in your current manuscript.

Author bio: A literary agent in New York , Donald Maass’s agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004) and The Fire in Fiction (2009). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.

The Fire in Fiction from the publisher.
The Fire in Fiction from
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