1. Sam M
    Offline

    Sam M Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2012
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Australia

    Character's thoughts?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Sam M, Jan 15, 2012.

    I've been wondering about this for a while.

    How do you accurately punctuate/portray characters thoughts? Quotation marks? Italics? Nothing? Do we keep or leave the tags? Do we use the same rules as speech? Or do we just try to avoid it by wording it differently?

    Thanks,
    Sam
     
  2. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    can be as on the nose as adding 'he thought/wondered/mused/etc.'... or simply by making it clear with your wording that it's a thought...

    never, since those are for spoken dialog only...

    while this is often done, good writers don't need to resort to fancy fontery to let readers know when someone is thinking... and using italics for thoughts is annoying to many readers [including this one] and writers who do are not well thought of by many editors [including this one]...

    yes!

    whichever works/reads best...

    meaning what?...

    avoid what?... differently from what?
     
  3. Sam M
    Offline

    Sam M Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2012
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Australia
  4. TheIllustratedMan
    Offline

    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Messages:
    170
    Likes Received:
    6
    John turned the corner and found himself staring into the void of a shotgun barrel. Well, shit. John slowly raised his hands and placed them behind his head. "You got me," he smiled.

    Just play along, he thought, still smiling. You can take this guy if you're careful.

    "Keep smiling, buddy," the man on the other end of the barrel said, "Down on your knees. Slowly."

    What a putz. John sank to his knees, his eyes never leaving that gun.
     
  5. Corgz
    Offline

    Corgz Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    1
    Italics are used universally for thinking :)
     
  6. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Really? In what universe? Most of the time the thoughts of the POV character can just be inserted into the narrative:

     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    not in any universe i've been to, corgz...

    however, one might say they're used universally in this one by lazy writers and/or those who can't write well enough to let their readers know any other way, when a character is thinking...
     
  8. Corgz
    Offline

    Corgz Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    1
    We are taught in school that it is italics from like.. grade two :p
     
  9. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    They also tell you not to end a sentence with a preposition. Writing rules for school are not the same as writing guidelines for fiction. If you read books, like I'm sure you do, you'll notice quite a lot of books where the thoughts are not italicized. So... are they wrong?
     
  10. CH878
    Offline

    CH878 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2011
    Messages:
    252
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    England
    Seconded. Even as you make your way through school, you find out that stuff you learnt in early years is redundant after a while and you have to learn new things.
     
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Not just redundant, sometimes plain wrong, old-fashioned, or limited in application. If you write fiction, don't write fiction for your grammar teacher, or your writing will become formal and stilted.
     
  12. Corgz
    Offline

    Corgz Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    1
    Then gaain, my bth grade teacher made me rewrite a story because mine was like this.

    Carl leaned over to maria.
    "Are you ready to go?" he whispered.
    "Yes"
    "Alright, the cars out the front.."

    She told me i had to write like this-

    Carl leaned over to maria.
    "Are you ready to go?" he said.
    "Yes" he said.
    "Alright, the cars out the front.." He said
     
  13. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Second graders do not do their exams or homework as computer-written submissions, so how are they supposed to show italics in their handwriting? I don't know how things have changed at uni in recent years, but the last I heard, final exams are still handwritten even if the assignments are not. At the university where I teach, we certainly don't teach this, and exams are hand written. I was never taught this when I learnt formatting for submissions.
     
  14. Corgz
    Offline

    Corgz Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    1
    Actually, when the school year starts in two weeks, the school is trying to compeltely abolish handwriting, other then spellign tests and stuff... but yeah, we are focusing on computers instead :)
     
  15. cari_za
    Offline

    cari_za Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2012
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    South Africa
    I just did this as an example in another post! *blush* Wow, well I learnt something new today! Mental note made.
     
  16. GinnyB
    Offline

    GinnyB New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm using first person narrative and it helps me to write the character's thoughts in italics - distinguishing them from the action and being able to build the character's personality - and bearing in mind how thoughts emerge as a 'stream of consciousness'.
     
  17. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    If it helps you to write that way, that's fine. It's formatting manuscripts to send to publishers that we're concerned about.
     
  18. Cacian
    Offline

    Cacian Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    5
    I have to admit I prefer your version.
    Too many 'he said' is annoying.
     
  19. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    You are free to use italics for thoughts as much as you want to, people are just trying to tell you what is considered better in writing. Then you can choose if listening to them or your teacher, of course. As with every piece of advice you can always choose if to take them or not.
     
  20. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    corgz... what school?... where?... and when?

    and how did 7 year olds even know what italics are, much less how to use them?... did they not teach handwriting in your second grade?... did everyone in your school only use computers?... i have to think you've made this and that 'universal' claim up, to try to defend your own use of italics for thought...
     
  21. JPGriffin
    Offline

    JPGriffin Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2011
    Messages:
    180
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I figured that italics, while not exactly the most accepted, weren't the most frowned-on element, but I can see what people like mammamaia and AmsterdamAssassin (sorry if I misspelled either name) see. It just makes the writing seem more sloppy, in my opinion, but it's completely up to the writer, I suppose. If I'm not mistaken, Tolkein had a nasty habit of putting thoughts in quotes. Very confusing at times, I'd say. Whatever works for a writer is fine, but when it comes to what matters to the publisher, that's a whole different story in itself.
     
  22. Immy
    Offline

    Immy Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2012
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    County Durham
    I think italics are the most obvious way of showing a characters thoughts. Then again, if you're writing in first person you may not have to because the reader will immediately know. If you're writing in third person, you can do this too, depending on the way you do it.

    For example:

    Gary stood by John's window, his torso turned slightly so that his badge sparkled in the light.

    "Well, I'll let you off this time. Just don't do it again, alright?" he raised an eyebrow, as if waiting for John to challenge him. Jerk.

    "Yes, officer" John hated calling him officer.


    As you probably guessed, the word 'jerk' was the thought running through John's mind but it could also be put in italics to make it a little more obvious. It depends on what you're comfortable with.
     
  23. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what 'could' be done is not always what's best done...
     
  24. lameri
    Offline

    lameri Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Regarding using italics for thoughts, I have a question: What if the narrative wants to make a difference between current time and past time. Example:
    ---
    She headed for the dressing room, overwhelmed, having to try on all those dresses. The store assistant had told her that they would all be altered for her size, but looking at herself in the mirror, she looked ridiculous in the first two she tried. She also felt lonely. “If Mom were here, she would find the way to encourage me. I understand she is doing something very important, but I’d like so much to have her here with me.” Soon she picked herself up and continued trying on dresses.
    ---
    I know I could avoid the quotes by putting it all in the past tense (She felt lonely. She thought that if her mom had been there, she would have...") but I want to make it present because it sound more powerful to me. Ideas?
     
  25. JPGriffin
    Offline

    JPGriffin Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2011
    Messages:
    180
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I'd suggest getting rid of the quotes, and just adding "she thought" in there. As I was reading this, I half saw her talking to herself, or nobody in particular. Make the changes, and I know that she's just thinking to herself about her mother.
     

Share This Page