1. BruMeister
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    BruMeister Member

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    Asking a question in a paragraph

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by BruMeister, Jan 11, 2011.

    If I'm writing in 3rd person, and I ask a question in a paragraph, should I put the question mark before or after "James thought", or should I just drop that part altogether.

    Here's my example:

    James knelt down on his right knee next to the hooded girl. With his both of hands, he pushed her hood off of her head, revealing a youthful face. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing heavy, and she looked to be about the same age as him. How could she be sleeping after all the commotion they caused(?), James thought(?)
     
  2. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Use a period.

    -Frank
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that you need the "he thought" at all--it's pretty clear that James is your viewpoint character. So you could just change the last sentence to:

    How could she be sleeping after all the commotion they caused?

    If you do want to explicitly tie the thoughts to James, I'd suggest rewriting the sentence to do that but avoid the question mark issue:

    James wondered how she could be sleeping after all the commotion they caused.

    ChickenFreak
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am with Chicken Freak I nearly posted the same thing but wasn't sure if third person changed it at all. The James Thought at the end is clumsy.
     
  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Oh - right. I'll amend my comments to ditto Chicken.

    -Frank
     
  6. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Oh, so are you all saying that if we write a character's thoughts, the thought can just be part of the narration?

    Instead of "Just look the other way," he thought to himself as he swept the dirt off his jacket, I could just use He should just look the other way since this is his last night in California?
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I think that when it's clear that the story is being experienced through the yes of a specific character, it's fine, and often simpler and more graceful, to include thoughts without specifically tying them to the character.

    Your example above:

    He should just look the other way since this is his last night in California.

    doesn't quite work for me--the "he should" seems to be stepping out of his point of view, plus "this is" shifts you from past to present tense. Possible rewrites could be:

    He swept the dirt off his jacket. It was his last night in California, and he was tempted to look the other way.

    or

    He swept the dirt off his jacket. Just look the other way? It was his last night in California, after all.

    ChickenFreak
     
  8. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    In my opinion it depends on how close you want to get to your character. Giving the reader a peek into his thought process is more intimate than keeping it strickly narrative. You would definitely not need to add the "to himself". Italics work well in this situation also:

    Just look the other way, he thought, sweeping the dirt off his jacket. It's your last night in California.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    chicken freak nailed it on all counts... her examples are primo!

    do not use " " for thoughts...

    do not use italics for thoughts [especially not redundantly, when you add 'he thought'!]...
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I only recommend using a 'he thought' tag if it's confusing whether the bit of prose is a thought or general narration, or if you're trying to highlight a very specific, important, meaningful thought.

    Too often, even in published works, there is all sorts of baggage with italics and thought tags for direct thoughts that are simply not interesting, engaging or even relevant.

    But, if your character keeps seeing the same message over and over, and then sees a dead girl that suddenly makes that message clear, it may be a perfect time for a direct thought to emphasize the precision of it.

    What I hate seeing:

    She walked into the room. This carpet is such an ugly brown, she thought.

    That kind of stuff can just be dropped into the prose, otherwise we think the character is a bit boring, being filled so constantly with banal thoughts.
     

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