How to Write a Soliloquy – Full Guide to When and How

Posted on May 15, 2023

Within the world of dramatic storytelling, soliloquies have long held a prominent position, allowing playwrights to delve into the minds of their characters and reveal their deepest thoughts, emotions, and conflicts.

From Shakespearean classics to modern theater, the soliloquy remains a powerful tool for captivating audiences and providing a window into the inner workings of a character’s psyche. 

But the mention of Shakespeare above is no coincidence as soliloquies are most often associated with plays instead of books. A writer does not need to use a soliloquy as they can simply state that a character is thinking, whereas an audience witnessing a performance on a stage has no such insight. 

But the fact there is no need, does not mean it is redundant in literature. In fact, it can be a wonderful literary device that enhances the book greatly, but only if done correctly. 

So if you have ever yearned to create your own soliloquy, this guide will navigate you through the intricate process of crafting a compelling and memorable soliloquy, enabling you to harness the essence of dramatic monologue and infuse it with your unique voice.

Step 1. Understanding the Purpose of a Soliloquy

At its core, a soliloquy is an introspective speech delivered by a character who is alone, addressing themselves or the reader directly. It serves various purposes, including:

a. Character Development: Soliloquies offer a unique opportunity to delve deep into a character’s thoughts, revealing their fears, desires, and motivations. They shed light on the character’s complexities and provide a platform for introspection.

b. Dramatic Tension: Soliloquies give the reader an insight into any internal conflicts within a character’s mind, building anticipation and suspense. They heighten the emotional impact of the work and engage the reader on a profound level.

c. Themes and Ideas: Soliloquies often explore broader themes or philosophical questions, giving voice to the writers overarching message. They serve as a vehicle for expressing profound ideas and provoking contemplation.

Step 2. Selecting the Right Character

Choosing the character who will deliver the soliloquy is crucial. Consider characters who have significant internal struggles, complex motivations, or pivotal roles within the play. Characters who undergo transformation or experience conflicting emotions tend to be ideal candidates for delivering compelling soliloquies.

Step 3. Creating Authentic Inner Dialogue

To write an engaging soliloquy, it’s essential to capture the authentic inner voice of the character. Remember, soliloquies provide a rare glimpse into the character’s unfiltered thoughts. Follow these guidelines to achieve authenticity:

a. Voice and Diction: Tailor the language, vocabulary, and speech patterns to suit the character’s background, education, and social status. Let their voice resonate through every word, creating a believable portrayal.

b. Emotional Range: Explore the character’s emotional landscape fully. Develop a deep understanding of their feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams. Infuse the soliloquy with a range of emotions, from raw vulnerability to passionate conviction.

c. Conflict and Resolution: Unveil the character’s internal conflicts and allow them to grapple with their thoughts. Develop a narrative arc within the soliloquy, providing an opportunity for resolution or realization.

Step 4. Structure and Rhythm

Crafting a soliloquy involves careful consideration of its structure and rhythm. While there are no strict rules, certain techniques can enhance its impact:

a. Length and Pace: Soliloquies can vary in length, but maintaining a balance is crucial. Avoid excessive length that may diminish the readers interest, and ensure the soliloquy’s pace aligns with the character’s state of mind and the overall mood of the work.

b. Repetition and Variation: While repetitive language is to be avoided, strategic repetition of certain phrases or motifs can lend emphasis and reinforce key ideas. Combine it with variations to maintain freshness and prevent monotony.

c. Metaphorical Language: Utilize metaphors, similes, and other figurative devices to paint vivid mental imagery. These rhetorical tools enhance the soliloquy’s aesthetic appeal and deepen the audience’s connection with the character’s inner world.

Step 5. Contextualizing the Soliloquy

A soliloquy doesn’t exist in isolation but rather within the broader context of the work. Consider the following aspects to ensure coherence and relevance:

a. Plot Progression: The soliloquy should contribute to the advancement of the plot, revealing important information or driving the narrative forward. Connect the character’s thoughts and revelations to the overall story arc.

b. Dramatic Timing: Choose the opportune moment for the soliloquy, where it will have the most impact. It could be a moment of heightened tension, emotional climax, or a crucial turning point in the character’s journey.

Step 6. Editing and Refinement

Like any form of writing, the process of creating a soliloquy involves revision and refinement. Pay attention to the following elements during the editing stage:

a. Clarity and Coherence: Ensure that the soliloquy communicates the character’s thoughts and emotions clearly. Eliminate any confusing or unnecessary elements that might distract from the main message.

b. Economy of Language: Strive for conciseness and precision in your words. Trim excessive or redundant phrases, allowing the soliloquy to maintain its impact without unnecessary verbosity.

c. Readability and Flow: Read the soliloquy aloud to assess its flow and rhythm. Smooth out any awkward phrases or stilted language to create a natural cadence that is most engaging.

Literary Soliloquies – Notable Examples

Holden Caulfield’s “The Catcher in the Rye” soliloquy (The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger)

Holden Caulfield’s introspective and deeply personal narrative throughout the novel can be seen as a soliloquy. He shares his inner thoughts, frustrations, and contemplations with the readers, creating a vivid portrayal of teenage angst and disillusionment.

Captain Ahab’s “Moby-Dick” soliloquies (Moby-Dick by Herman Melville)

Captain Ahab’s monologues in Moby-Dick showcase his obsession with hunting the white whale and his internal struggle with the forces of fate and his own mortality. These soliloquies reveal Ahab’s complex character and his quest for revenge.

Esther Greenwood’s introspective musings (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)

As Esther Greenwood navigates the challenges of her mental health, her narrative acts as a soliloquy. Plath delves into Esther’s psyche, allowing readers to witness her innermost thoughts, fears, and disillusionment with societal expectations.

Humbert Humbert’s confessions (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

In Lolita, Humbert Humbert’s narrative can be viewed as a soliloquy, as he addresses the readers directly, sharing his disturbing infatuation with a young girl. These confessional monologues expose Humbert’s complex and morally reprehensible nature.

Meursault’s existential reflections (The Stranger by Albert Camus)

The protagonist of The Stranger, Meursault, engages in introspective soliloquies that explore his detached worldview, existential philosophy, and his indifference toward societal norms. These soliloquies depict Meursault’s struggle to find meaning in an absurd world.

Offred’s inner monologues (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood)

Offred’s inner musings in The Handmaid’s Tale serve as soliloquies, as she reflects on her oppressive circumstances and recounts her memories and desires. Through these monologues, Atwood reveals the inner resilience and rebellion within Offred.

Jay Gatsby’s nostalgic reflections (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

While not explicitly soliloquies, Jay Gatsby’s nostalgic reflections on his past and unrequited love for Daisy Buchanan can be considered as internal monologues. Fitzgerald’s lyrical prose captures Gatsby’s yearning and reveals the complex layers of his character.

How To Write A Soliloquy – Summary

Crafting a captivating soliloquy requires a delicate balance of authenticity, structure, and creative flair. By understanding the purpose of a soliloquy, selecting the right character, and creating an authentic inner dialogue, you can construct a powerful monologue that resonates with the reader. 

Remember to consider the soliloquy’s structure and rhythm, contextualize it within the work, and refine it through editing.

By taking these steps, you should have a beautifully written soliloquy that lands with impact.

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