Skip to main content

The Sublime Inner Voice by Gail Godwin

Writer's Edge Advanced Craft - Interior Monologue 

Over the years, author Gail Godwin has excelled at observing and commenting on the human condition via her characters. To a significant extent, the power of her narrative depends on her ability to create interesting personalities whom she then dissects. Overall, this narrative of interior monologue serves as a model for aspiring authors looking to do something similar with their own characters.

The following excerpts are from her classic novel, Evensong, the story of Margaret Bonner, the pastor of a church in a small town, and how she interprets and reacts to the people in her life. And btw, though this is in first person, the method can easily be translated into third person also.

"Would Gus and Charles, as involved in their building and doctoring as Adrian and I were in our school mastering and pastoring, be able to live up to the words better than we were doing? I hoped so. I hoped so for their sakes. I sketched a Celtic cross in the left-hand corner of the card and began shading in the background. What had happened to Adrian and me? In my more pragmatic moods, I tried to settle for the practical explanation: our jobs were making so much of us that we had not time left to make much of each other. But by nature I wasn‘t a pragmatist; I was a digger, a delver into complexities."

"At the bottom of my father‘s Slough of Despond, I now realized, had burbled a dependable tiny wellspring of lugubrious self-love: somehow he had been at ease lolling in his melancholy. Whereas at the bottom of Adrian‘s despondence, I had discovered, lay a flinty bedrock of self-hatred. But if my father had been something of a loller, my husband was a fighter: his whole history testified to this. He‘d work hard and achieve a profession, then heed a call to a fuller use of his potential, bravely pull himself up by the roots, and expand his skills: from Chicago to Zurich, from Zurich to seminary, from seminary to the church, from church to this experimental school in the mountains of western North Carolina.  "A falling short of your totality" was how he had defined sin on the day I met him in my father‘s garden, and he was still at work trying to fill out his own totality. But then there‘d be an emotional setback—the death of my father, the death of our unborn daughter, the death of Dr. Sandlin—and, whereas anyone would be plunged into grief, he plunged beyond grief, right back down to that hard, cold floor of self-hate."

"As I laid aside the new sermon note card before I cluttered it with doodles, my gaze was arrested by old Farley‘s moon painting, which hung between the two windows in my study: Every time I looked at it I of course thought of Madelyn and the changes she had wrought on our family simply by walking into our house and being Madelyn Farley and walking out again the next morning with my mother." 

"But the painting itself remained a rich source of contemplation for me. That round white disk riding the night sky between its trail of bright clouds had been created on a dark, freezing porch by an ill-humored old man who in his last years had become fixated on the moon. Why? Because its fast-rising, elliptical variations were so hard to trap in pigment and water? Or were all his moonscapes (conscious or unconscious) an exercise in self-portraiture: obsessive studies of a cold, hard, cratered, dark thing, like himself, that nevertheless had been endowed with the capacity to reflect light and beauty?"

Comments

Worthy WE Wisdom

Top Seven Reasons Aspiring Authors Fail to Publish

At a conservative estimate, upwards of 250,000 writers in the U.S. are currently struggling to write or find an agent for their first commercial novel or memoir. If you understand this business, you also know why an enormous percentage are unable to make it happen. Below are my top seven reasons why otherwise passionate writers will join the 99.9% never to become commercially published (btw, to read other valid perspectives on this, click on the " novel rejection reasons " label on the right). 1. NEOPHYTE SKILL SET AND A FAILURE TO COMPREHEND THE PROBLEM   In the case of the writer's prose narrative, it just does not display the kind of energy, cinema, creativity, and polish necessary to convince a gatekeeper professional to go deeper. The first line falls with a thud, and the graph dips from there into a pond of blah. This circumstance is perhaps the number one cause of quick rejection. Usually, the writer in question is sufficiently new to the game, not aware,

"Top Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice" (and it gets worse)

OUTSIDE OF NARCISSISM, IMPATIENCE AND BAD ADVICE ARE A WRITER'S WORST ENEMIES . If you ever attend writer events, you will never cease to hear utterances of bad writing advice, the popular kind that circulate like  ruinous viral memes through the nervous systems of America's aborning novel writers. And each time you are exposed, you either chuckle or swear, depending on your mood and the circumstance. You might make a daring attempt to kill the meme in its tracks before it can infect someone else, or you might just stare at the writer with a dumbfounded look and ask, "Where the hell did you hear that?" Yes, the primal question: WHERE THE HELL DID YOU HEAR THAT? Inevitably, many will point to their writer's group . Ahhhh, of course , you think. Why just recently at an Algonkian event , one of my faculty (a former senior editor at Random House) and I were faced with an individual who adamantly asserted to us both that using only one point of view to write a n