I actually wrote an entire schpeel and then accidentally deleted it XD But it’s actually exactly what @r-m-archer said, except she said it far better and clearer than I did. Character’s reactions, and how their reactions change, is the best way to show internal conflict.
It’s especially good if you can have two similar circumstances, one at the beginning and one at the end, and show the difference. Or even have the character themselves think something like “A *period of time* ago I would have– but now–”
Now, I actually have something to add here:
Also, what are y’all’s favorite ways to communicate the backstory/ghost that is causing the character’s flaw or misbelief from one character to another? I did it a couple times in dialogue, but I’m worried it’s fake feeling.
Warning, I’m not good at communicating backstory to the reader (Still working on that XD) But between characters, I have some ideas.
Dialogue is your best option, but not your only one.
Make sure the other characters need to know. Sometimes the past is best left in the past and characters don’t need to know everything about each other. I have several characters who don’t know much about each other’s past until the very end of the book. It just isn’t necessary. It won’t change the plot, and it won’t change their relationship.
If one of your characters is very emotionally intelligent/empathetic, they might guess a large part of the internal conflict without needing to be told. (And will probably start acting on it, and slowly try to get more information out of the character.)
The most common way to reveal backstory in dialogue is the trusting confession, also known as “Sitting around a campfire, exchanging childhood trauma.” You see this a lot in movies.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be executed just right to keep it from being flat or even boring.
Make sure the reader anticipates the confrontation. Either by having one of the other characters pointedly notice something that indicates the backstory (A keepsake, a mark, a scar, anything of that kind) but don’t give the whole story the first time. Either have your character dismiss it, or they can outright lie, depending on the character.
Don’t make the backstory bear too much plot if you’re planning to delay it. Nothing is more annoying than a plot that could have been solved if the characters had a good conversation.
Then, as they come to trust each other more and the other character has a pretty good idea that something is up with this guy, you can have the reveal.
Now, assuming the character with the backstory is the POV character, you don’t want to focus too much on the backstory. You can even narratively skim over it. The reader already knows this. Don’t repeat it too much.
Instead, focus on the other character’s reaction to it. Make it interesting, unusual, but above all, in character.
(And if they aren’t the POV, don’t go too in-depth. The character will probably be apprehensive and skim over it anyway.)
Now, my personal favorite way, the argument reveal. (I love it too much. The sheer drama of it all.)
This is especially effective if it’s an argument that’s caused by a POV character messing up because of their disbelief. Naturally, the others will be like “Why did you do that?” and emotions get high.
In an argument, the character may say things they wouldn’t have if they were being cautious. They’re angry, or defensive, or panicking. They’re going to act impulsively and possibly let cats out of bags.
Once again, focus on the reaction of the other character, and don’t just let it pass with an “Oh, you have a tragic backstory? All good now, sorry, I didn’t know.”
It’s better if the backstory radically changes how the others view the POV character. And that doesn’t even need to be in a good light. Perhaps they see the POV character as to blame, or they blame them for not telling them earlier and preventing all this. Let there be consequences!
Still, it’s kinda hard to explain without actually seeing the scene. I’d love to read one of the scenes if you feel like posting it! Maybe I can give better advice then 🙂
Hope this helped some!
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?