Uses of Introspection

Years ago, I had a Q & A blog for Writers, and when I read these a month or so ago, I found some questions that are still pertinent today. So this post will take a look at Introspection and answer this readers question: Is interior monologue direct thought or is it reflection? Is there a difference?


Internal monologue is the inner process everyone goes through in dealing with life. Sometimes it’s an unconscience mental activity that causesthe character to function as he does. Other times, he hears the specific thoughts in our heads.  Reflection is when the mind goes back in time to relive a positive or negative situation, ponder it, ask questions , weigh the results of decisions or actions, and always with the hope of  moving ahead. Both of these mental activities fall under the general category Introspection which is defined in the dictionary as the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes in the present, past or future.

Introspection  can be used  in a variety of ways

1. A time whe the reader can know the character’s real truths, but the truth as the character sees it.

Character’s Truth:

Joe couldn’t tell her how he really felt. She wanted him to say he loved her, but he couldn’t. He’d learned that he couldn’t love anyone when he didn’t love himself.
Comment: This  can be a truth the readers didn’t know or understand. It helps them to dig deeper into the character.

2. Charcters take time to reflect on the past and it’s a time to respond to the present or to plan for the future. It’s a place where the author can drop a clue to the past or piece of backstory.

Reflect on the past:
Looking at Susan today drew him back to five years ago when they’d first met. The memory sent a chill up his spin, recalling her face tilted toward the sky, the sun shining on her hair. Why couldn’t he allow those feelings to surface today?

Comment: This provides readers with food for thought.

Reflect on the Future:
Tom’s mind spun with ideas. He had to do something. Time wouldn’t allow him to weigh every option. She needed his help and it had to be now. Possibilities filled his mind until one stood out among the rest. He knew what he had to do.

Comment: As you can see, this is an excellent hook to keep the reader wanting to turn pages and learn what is going to happy.

3. Foreshadowing is way to provide a hint to  readers that something  will happen in the future. It is most effective if  the information is dropped in a non-commital way so that the reader doesn’t always recognize it as a hook.

Reflect on attitude or fear:
A shudder rolled across Susan’s shoulders as she descended to the basement. Why did she dislike this place? Maybe it was too much like a grave, damp and underground. Susan preferred the light, not the dank gloom of a cellar.

Comment: A preceptive reader will anticipate that she’s going to be trapped in an underground location eventually in this story or something awful will happen to her in a basement.

4. An opportunity to relive a romantic scene or details of a  crime. It is a mental exercise in breaking apart the elements of the moment, the progress, the backsliding, the wrongs and the rights of decisoin-making. It is a time to relive the kiss or review of suspects.

Reflect on the romance 

Anne leaned back her head, her lips still tingling with the touch of his mouth on hers. His hand had brushed her cheek and sent a chill coursing through her. Her mind sailed to places unknown. Why had she allowed his touch to arouse her in such a way that she nearly lost her senses? From now on, her guard would be up so she could capture them and lock them away.

Comment: This is effective especially if the kiss occurred in the hero’s POV.

Reflect on the crime

He stared at the list of suspects while he sorted them into guilty and not guilty columns. Though he had no proof, his years of prosecuting the guilty had made him keen to the truth. He was proud of that. Faces rose in his mind, the innocent eyes of the young girl who could be guilty and a good actress. The shopkeeper whose alibi was shakey. He didn’t like the man’s looks and suspected he could have committed the murder. The other images flickered in his thoughts, and he sank against the chair back seeing too many of them sliding into the guilty column.

Comment: On the outside the detective may look sure of himself, but his thoughts reveal his own doubts and anxiety.

5. Means to reveal character emotions. All people react to a situation in their own way that matches their personalities, attitudes, openness and willingness to admit or share.


He shuddered recalling the moment before the horror occurred. The lovely woman crumpled on the floor covered in her own blood. His hand shook as he scrawled down the report of what he had seen and heard. Why would someone kill her? The answer jolted in hs chest and smashed into his gut.

Comment: The impact of the situation allows the reader to envision the terrible murder through the witnesses eyes and feel the emotional impact of the situation.

Introspection is important to the story in providing readers with the struggles, dilemma and true reactions of the characters as they deal with life situations. Often people cover their deeper feelings, and this kind of mental exercise  opens the doors to the truth so the reader can better understand the character’s reactions and decisions.

What’s your thought?
Add your ideas in the comments section and share other ways Introspection is used in your fiction or in books you read.


Leave a comment
  1. Brenda J Garver November 12, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Thanks, Gail, for the helpful information.

  2. Jill November 14, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    This is great, Gail! Thank you.

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