Interiority

The meaty core of it all

That’s a heavy concept. And this became one of those sticking points for me—something that I found myself having strong opinions about, even before I had spent a lot of time examining the precise nature of those opinions. Somehow, my mind had started to position itself in relation to interiority, but at a point in which most of my conscious thinking was still sorting out how the overall idea might be used.

It occurred to me only recently that I would take some time and virtual space to sketch out my opinions on how interiority operates in my writing. At least most of the time. There are exceptions, and I’ll say a bit about that further on.

In an effort to minimize any misunderstandings, I’ll briefly state that, by “interiority,” I mean “the aspect of fictional writing that allows a reader narrative access to the inner psychology or thoughts/feelings of a character.” Stated simply: it’s when fiction tells the reader what a character is thinking or feeling. If you, as a reader, know what a character is thinking/feeling because you were told, but that character didn’t tell you by speaking it aloud…you’re reading a text that shares narrative interiority.

So, that defined, I’ll give my sweeping, generalized opinion, and will then begin back-peddling.

Interiority: I don’t like it.

Well, now, wait—hold on, don’t go all crazy! I’ll elaborate a little. It only really struck me recently, when I was reading Cormac McCarthy‘s No Country for Old Men, that the majority of my writing doesn’t employ any interiority. I noticed it because No Country… didn’t have any either, with the exception of the first-person interludes peppered throughout the novel. I enjoy that lack of access because it removes the tired convention of a narrative voice feeding this information directly into your brain. It can require you, as a reader, to pay closer attention to things. It can also create greater ambiguity, which I’m usually in favor of. Most films don’t provide that kind of psychological access, and yet they aren’t faulted the absence of it. Finally, I feel this lack creates a sense of immersion and realism. As in life, you can’t get access to others’ thoughts/feelings unless they tell you or you intuit information from what you perceive. It’s actually one of the few instances of realism that I find myself always wanting from fiction. And I will, almost always, make my fiction entirely devoid of character interiority. Except when I don’t.

See? Now comes the back-peddling.

Interiority can come in handy on other occasions, as in first-person narratives. This is because, with first-person, you’re not just tasting a character’s interior—you’re soaking in it. And that can provide an entirely different kind of ambiguity.

Image: By Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, United States (crab melt cross section  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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