Writing Tips

Third person versus monologue

I think it’s true to say that the majority of novels are written in the third person, and probably because this gives the writer more opportunity for describing the environment of the characters and the characters themselves.

However, using monologue can be very powerful too.

Let’s go straight into an example of a scene I observed in a cafe recently. I’ve written this short piece both ways, to demonstrate the differences:

Third person

Jack flung his school bag under his chair, sat down and then shuffled the chair forward further and further under the cafe table until he was as close to Sophie as he could manage.  Then he leant back in an attempt to appear cool and dropped his shoulders.  She was perched on her seat, pretty as a picture, spooning the froth from her cappuccino into her perfectly formed mouth.

‘How’s your DT project going?’ he asked.

Monologue – Sophie

I like Jack.  We’ve been for coffee a couple of times now.  He always pays, like a gentleman. I like that.  The first time we went to Costa and I made sure I was on my best behaviour.  But today I did what I like best and spooned all the lovely froth from my cappuccino into my mouth.  He didn’t seem to notice.  I think he likes me.


Which do you prefer?

The piece written in the third person relies on body language to tell the story.  In the monologue piece, we know what Sophie is thinking, and we have an inkling of how Jack feels from the way she talks about him, e.g. he pays for her coffee, and he did not seem to notice her spooning the froth into her mouth.

I wrote Unlikely Neighbours as a series of monologues and you hear the story from the point of view of each of the characters: Chloe, Alex, Becky, Sheila and George. Of course, they each have their own angle on the same events.

I enjoyed writing it this way as all I had to do was to get into the mindset of whoever’s chapter it was and write what I heard them say in my head. Does that mean I’m mad?!

One thing, I think it is always important to do, is to leave a certain amount to the reader’s imagination. Don’t spell everything out.

Show, don’t tell.

When writing in monologue, although you are hearing direct from the character, as we are not always 100% honest with ourselves, it still leaves something for the reader to deduce from what they are saying. Readers like that.

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