University is maddening. We’re taught to critically think, but not with our own thoughts. Researchers on a topic engage in what is called a “conversation.” Sure, you get to choose highlights of that conversation and synthesize a summary.
But are syntheses original? Meh.
You can take a strong position if you have lots of support from that conversation. You might even share something new through primary research (such as interviews or surveys). But, rarely do you share your soul.
You can’t say “I.” You can’t tell the tales grandpa swore you to secrecy about that explain the psychology of war. You can’t tell how your childhood trauma makes you morally torn by the word “love.” In fact, when it comes to the conversation, you have no voice.
What a loss!
You see, no-one else is quite like you: the love you feel is unique. The reasons you avoid certain places or people are unique. In fact, the constant chatter inside your brain belongs to you alone. So, original thoughts bubble inside you, don’t they?
Curious minds hunger to hear your inner voice.
So, let’s burn the ivory tower of academia and find fun ways to express yourself?through something called internal dialogue. Yes, the creative kind you find in fiction.
Marcy Kennedy in her book Internal Dialogue (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 7) tells how to write internal dialogue for fiction (in bold below). I show how to show off your own inner voice inside your essays.
Our fears, our disgrace, our lies hide within our internal dialogue. Now doesn’t that sound thrilling? Let your inner voice run naked at strategic spots in your essays. I’ll show you how.
But first, why internal dialogue? Internal dialogue sounds more exciting and less lecture-like than mere narration. You can bore your prof with a narrative lecture. Or, you excite by sprinkling in the inner voice of your subject, of yourself, or of yourself acting the voices of your cited authors.
Reserve your internal dialogue for the point-of-view character. If you’re writing about Plato, identify with him?write how you’d respond if you said the things he said and did the things he did. If you’re writing about an object, give that object a voice. If you took on the form of that object and did everything it did, what personified thoughts might run through your skull?
You can also take on an omniscient point-of-view in your essays. In other words, you can head hop from one cited author to the next, sharing how you would think and feel if your consciousness melded with each author.
All your internal dialogue should advance the story or foreshadow. Similarly, any internal dialogue you insert should advance or support your thesis. Pluck all else.
Only insert internal dialogue that you, your subject, or your cited authors might think. If your essay is about Plato’s death, and you know he’s had a near death experience then chances are that Plato may have mulled that over at his deathbed. Insert that inner pep talk?but only if you can support that it’s likely to have occurred.
Internal dialogue consists of pep talks, problem solving, and even self-esteem crushing. Let these aims guide your internal dialogue inserts in your essay. If you had those experiences, and you lived the world of the subject or the cited authors, what pep talk or verbal beating would you give yourself?
You can use indirect internal dialogue which doesn’t use exact words of thought. Indirect internal dialogue uses third person point of view and no quotation marks.
You can also use direct internal dialogue by using the exact words thought, stated in first person present tense. Italicize direct internal dialogue?without quotation marks. In essays, you typically use third person (he/she/it/they) point-of-view and past tense. But after each major theme or argument, why not insert an italicized direct internal thought in first person present tense? Set it off as its own paragraph. (But keep it brief). Punctuate every page and a half with direct internal dialogue if you wish. Go wild.
Don’t use the words “he wondered” or “she realized” or “they thought.” Show the action that leads to the thought. Or show how the thought unfolds with the experiences of the subject or authors cited. Show, don’t tell.
For instance, say something like this (but make sure the information is mostly factual):
He handed the poison to Socrates who clutched the goblet while shuddering a laugh. A New Year’s hangover? Socrates looked drunk, a self-satisfied smile stretching his cheeks.
But you can use words like “he wondered” if you are head hopping from cited author to cited author (like in omniscient point of view). For head hopping, keep the direct inner thoughts italicized, and the words “he thought” non-italic. And, of course, put quotation marks around actual quotes.
So, speak your mind with internal dialogue. A paradox? I call it a creative spark.
(For templates on how to enter the conversation, consult Cathy Berkenstein and Gerald Graff in their book They Say; I say: The Moves that Matter in Academia.)