How do you feel about a lot of internal thoughts in books?
I used to think I didn’t like internalization that much. If a character was too in their head, it meant (I thought) not a lot was going on in the book and that could get boring. I’ve mentioned in a few reviews that I prefer plot driven books over character driven — the latter has a lot more internalization than the former, after all — but a recent talk with a bookish friend made me start to wonder.
I’m a member of a SCBWI critique group. We meet up twice a month, exchange four to five pages, and critique each other’s work. I’m the go-to person for book recommendations in the group, because I read the most. Generally, with every critique I give I’ll recommend a few books for the others to read that are similar in style, tone, or plot to what they’re writing.
About a month ago I recommended Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things to one of the girls who is fabulous at writing contemporaries with a literary flair — which sums up Emily’s pretty well. If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll probably notice it’s also one of my favorite books.
Anyway, she read it and to my extreme shock she didn’t like it. She thought it was too internal. This shocked me even more. I mean, I’ve harped on books for being too internal quite a few times — do I really love a book that’s mostly internal?
This got me thinking.
It’s true that I can appreciate a book that has beautiful writing even if I don’t necessarily love the plot. Uses for Boys is lyrical and lovely and I look forward to the next book by the author, but it wasn’t really plot driven and that generally isn’t my thing. Lovely, Dark, & Deep wasn’t my favorite — way too internal and fair too thin of a plot for my taste — but I absolutely loved the writing. It’s so beautiful, even though the plot didn’t grab me, I read the entire book in a day.
And while Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things is indeed a beautifully written book, but I couldn’t believe that was the only reason I loved it.
Here’s the thing I figured out: I love internalization of characters, their thoughts and muses, as long as there is a plot to match it. I often use Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things as a good example for a contemporary coming-of-age story, because it’s not all character-driven. There are two strong subplots that move the story forward (the mysterious disappearance of Claire’s BFF and her accidentally stealing Emily Dickinson’s dress).
I feel like I’m rambling at this point. So I turn the discussion to you.