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Conveying Internal Struggles: Techniques for Narrating Characters’ Inner Turmoil

As a writer, one of my biggest challenges is effectively conveying the internal struggles of my characters. Narrating their inner turmoil in a compelling way can make all the difference in creating a memorable and emotionally resonant story. In this article, I’ll explore techniques for conveying internal struggles and narrating the inner turmoil of characters.

Whether you’re working on a novel, short story, or screenplay, these techniques can help you bring your characters’ emotional conflicts and challenges to life through powerful storytelling. From developing three-dimensional characters to using symbolism and pacing, we’ll cover everything you need to know to create compelling characters and gripping narratives.

Conveying Internal Struggles

Understanding Internal Struggles in Fiction

Before we delve into effective techniques for conveying internal struggles, it’s pivotal to understand what they are and their significance in the context of fiction. Internal struggles refer to the emotional conflicts and challenges that characters face throughout a story. The turmoil can stem from a range of sources, such as past traumas, current dilemmas, unfulfilled desires, or conflicting beliefs.

Internal struggles are crucial for compelling storytelling because they allow readers to connect with characters on a deep and personal level. When readers can relate to the struggles that the characters face, they become invested in their journeys and want to see them triumph over their conflicts. In turn, this creates an emotional and engaging reading experience that can stay with the reader long after they finish the book.

Internal struggles also shape the character’s journey, affecting their personality, actions, and decisions. Characters who face internal conflicts often undergo significant transformations that make them more complex, relatable, and three-dimensional.

“The best fiction is deeply personal. It touches and changes the reader because it explores deep universal truths that we all experience but don’t often talk about.” – Jeannette Walls

Ultimately, understanding internal struggles in fiction is critical for creating engaging stories that resonate with readers. In the next section, we’ll explore techniques for creating three-dimensional characters to effectively convey internal struggles.

Creating Three-Dimensional Characters

Developing complex and relatable characters is essential for effectively conveying internal struggles. One-dimensional characters can come across as flat and uninteresting, failing to capture readers’ attention and empathy. On the other hand, three-dimensional characters are richly layered, with intricate backstories, motivations, and personality traits that make them feel like real people.

One technique for creating three-dimensional characters is to delve into their past experiences and how they shape their current actions and behaviors. A character’s backstory can reveal their vulnerabilities, fears, and desires, giving readers insight into their inner struggles. Additionally, exploring a character’s motivations and what they truly desire can help craft a compelling and dynamic character.

Another approach is to consider the character’s personality traits and how they influence their emotional responses. For example, an introverted character may internalize their struggles, while an extroverted character may lash out or seek validation from others.

By combining these techniques and allowing your characters to evolve over the course of the story, you can create three-dimensional characters that readers will care about and root for.

Showing through Dialogue and Internal Monologue

When it comes to conveying internal struggles, dialogue and internal monologue are essential tools. Through these techniques, writers can reveal the emotions, conflicts, and dilemmas that their characters are experiencing.

Dialogue is the spoken interaction between characters, and it can be used to reveal their internal struggles indirectly. For example, a character may attempt to avoid discussing a particular topic, indicating that it is a sensitive issue for them. Alternatively, a character may lash out in anger, revealing frustration or fear. A well-written conversation can convey a depth of emotion that cannot be accomplished solely through description.

Internal monologue is the character’s thoughts and reflections. It offers a glimpse into their inner psyche, revealing the turmoil that they are experiencing. Through internal monologue, writers can showcase the character’s doubts, fears, and conflicts, adding depth to their persona. This allows readers to connect with the character on a more personal level, understanding their struggles and empathizing with their situation.

“I’m not good enough,” I thought to myself as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. “Why even bother trying?”

When utilizing dialogue and internal monologue, it’s crucial to ensure that they are driving the story forward. They should not be used solely for exposition or to reveal information that could not otherwise be shown. Rather, they should reveal character, illuminate emotions, and convey internal struggles in a manner that is engaging and thought-provoking.

Using Descriptive Language and Symbolism

Descriptive language and symbolism can be highly effective in conveying a character’s inner turmoil. As a writer, I aim to create vivid, three-dimensional characters that resonate with readers on an emotional level. By utilizing descriptive imagery, I can paint a picture of a character’s inner state and evoke a visceral response. For example:

“Her heart felt heavy as she trudged up the hill, each step feeling like a weight on her shoulders.”

In this example, the descriptive language paints a powerful image of the character’s emotional state. The use of physical description, such as a heavy heart and weighted steps, creates a tangible representation of her internal struggles.

Symbolism is another powerful tool for conveying deep emotions and internal conflict. A symbol can represent a character’s inner state, reinforcing the emotional tone of a scene. For example, the color red can symbolize passion, anger, or danger, depending on the context. Using this symbol selectively and intentionally can create a more profound emotional impact on the reader, making them feel more connected to the story.

When used thoughtfully, descriptive language and symbolism can enhance a reader’s understanding of a character’s internal struggles and make them feel more invested in the story. As a writer, I strive to use these techniques effectively to create a rich and immersive storytelling experience.

Employing Narrative Structure and Pacing

The way a story is structured and paced can significantly impact the portrayal of a character’s internal struggles. It’s essential to build tension and suspense gradually throughout the narrative, keeping the reader engaged in the character’s emotional journey. Emphasizing critical moments through narrative structure and pacing can give readers an immersive experience, allowing them to better understand and empathize with the character on a deep level.

One effective technique to build tension is to use foreshadowing. Teasing upcoming conflicts or pivotal events can create an atmosphere of suspense and anticipation. Another technique is to vary the pacing throughout the narrative, alternating slow and fast-paced scenes to emphasize significant moments and keep the reader invested. A well-executed pacing can simulate a realistic experience for the reader, giving them a nuanced understanding of the character’s struggle.

“The best stories are told with a solid narrative structure and effective pacing. They make you feel like you’re living the journey alongside the characters.”


In conclusion, as a copywriting journalist, I have learned that effectively conveying internal struggles is crucial for creating realistic and compelling fictional characters. Understanding the significance of internal conflicts and employing techniques like creating three-dimensional characters, utilizing dialogue and internal monologue, employing descriptive language and symbolism, and structuring the narrative effectively can bring characters’ inner turmoil to life.

It’s essential to remember that readers invest in characters who are relatable, and portraying their internal struggles is an effective way to create that connection. By employing these techniques, I can craft characters that readers will care about and become invested in their emotional journeys.

It may take practice and experimentation to incorporate these techniques seamlessly into my writing, but the end result will be a more engaging and satisfying story. By applying the lessons I learned in this article, I can create characters that tug at readers’ heartstrings, taking them on a journey they won’t soon forget.


What are internal struggles in fiction?

Internal struggles in fiction refer to the emotional conflicts, challenges, and dilemmas that characters face within themselves. These may include conflicting desires, moral dilemmas, unresolved past trauma, self-doubt, and other internal obstacles.

Why are internal struggles important for compelling storytelling?

Internal struggles add depth and complexity to characters, making them more relatable and engaging for readers. These struggles create tension, drive character development, and provide opportunities for growth and transformation throughout the story.

How can I create three-dimensional characters?

To create three-dimensional characters, focus on developing their backstory, motivations, and personality traits. Give them a mix of strengths and weaknesses, conflicting emotions, and complex relationships. This depth will make them feel more realistic and relatable to readers.

How can dialogue and internal monologue convey internal struggles?

Dialogue and internal monologue can reveal a character’s thoughts, emotions, and inner conflicts. Through dialogue, characters can express their desires, fears, and frustrations. Internal monologue allows readers to directly access a character’s thoughts, providing insight into their struggles and dilemmas.

How can descriptive language and symbolism convey emotions?

Descriptive language and symbolism can bring emotions and internal struggles to life. Using vivid and evocative language, writers can describe a character’s physical sensations, body language, and subtle signs of their emotional state. Symbolism, such as recurring motifs or objects, can represent and amplify emotions and conflicts.

How does narrative structure and pacing convey internal struggles?

The narrative structure and pacing of a story can heighten tension and suspense, effectively conveying internal struggles. By building the story in a way that gradually escalates the character’s conflicts, writers can immerse readers in the emotional journey and intensify their investment in the character’s struggles.

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