1. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    How to write someone's quote in thoughts?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Renee J, Sep 2, 2014.

    If two characters are having a conversation and the POV character suddenly remembers something another character said, how would you display that quote? If I use quotation marks, the reader might think that third character is there and talking. I think italics would work, but I've read that I should never, ever use them except to stress one word.

    An example from the top of my head:

    "Mom loves my husband," said Mary.

    That man is a two timing, worthless skunk, Mom had said. She was always happy to tell Beth her true feelings when Mary wasn't around.

    "I'm not so sure about that," Beth said.
     
  2. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    I'd recast the thought so it wasn't a direct quote. like thus:

    "Mom loves my husband," said Mary.

    Beth thought about the discussions she'd had with Mom when Mary wasn't around. "I'm not so sure about that," Beth said.


    the direct quote isn't necessary, if you're showing how Mom felt in Beth's actions in the scene--and it's always better to show than to tell. in this case, the important thing isn't exactly what Mom said, it's how (or whether) Beth breaks the news to Mary, and Mary's reaction to what Beth says.

    personally, I strongly dislike using italics in the narrative, unless there's an established custom or a good stylistic reason, because I had it ingrained in me that if a manuscript goes to publication, you can't guarantee that your style notes are going to be honored by the editor or the typesetter. I don't know if that's changed, or if it's dependent on having a good relationship with your editor or what, but that's the way I generally write. I save my bolds and italics for informal writing like this...
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That is not an opinion there is a consensus on:
    Italics for thoughts

    In summary of that 25 page thread: I use italics for internal monologue as do others. A few people insist you shouldn't, a few say they personally don't like to see thoughts in italics, a few people claim publishers don't like it (no one cited any though and many books were cited that do use them) and I found a number of style guides that said to use italics while the fact the CMoS does not say to, is taken as a rule not to.

    If you choose not to use italics you should use tags and no quotes.

    Mother always said so, I thought to myself.​
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You could also rephrase it and avoid using thoughts at all. For example:
    Or something like
    That's just two possibilities out of many.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that you shouldn't use quotes, but tags for thoughts can usually be avoided.

    I'd rewrite this as:

    "Mom loves my husband," said Mary.

    Beth raised an eyebrow. Yeah. Sure. Mom had called Bob a two timing, worthless skunk--when she was feeling indulgent toward him. "I'm not so sure about that."
     
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  6. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    You are fine to use italics for your POV character's internal thoughts. Don't use quotation marks in the way you have suggested. If your character is recalling a long passage of dialogue, the entire remembered conversation may be set in italics complete with quotation marks and action tags, but that is not what you need here. Recasting this passage is likely your best bet, no special treatment required just as several others have said already. Remembering a direct quote with no introduction in the way you have it is confusing.

    @elynne, A note on what you said about editors and typesetters changing your formatting: in situations like this, your editor and typesetter likely have little, if any, say. Editors are usually made to conform to a style guide, which will have set the governing rules with regards to stylistic things like this. The typesetter will have even less say than the editor---the typesetter will follow the guides the editor has given them. The book's designer may have some input, but more likely the publisher will have a set of pre-established guidelines that are uniform throughout the house. The relationship you have with your editor has nothing to do with things like this, I'm afraid. Editors are not mean people, out to change the formatting of your manuscript on a whim. Our jobs depend on our knowing the rules, and applying them correctly. I swear, we are here to help you.
     
  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, a reader should not infer that Mom is there with them, speaking at the same moment. That is the function of verb tense. If you write "Mom said", then yes, that means she says it at that point in the dialogue. But instead, you write "Mom had said", which means she says it some time before the dialogue.

    Quotation marks are for representing a character's exact spoken or written words. Period. The fact that something is in quotation marks does not automatically imply that the character says it at that moment. Use verb tense to indicate when the character says it.

    But the issue is that it fits in with a pattern of line-then-attribution, which gives the reader mixed signals (one signal -- that it fits within the pattern -- says the line is within the dialogue; the other signal -- verb tense -- says the opposite).

    Maybe break the pattern to avoid giving that signal:

    "Mom loves my husband," said Mary.

    "I'm not so sure about that," said Beth.

    In fact, Mom was always happy to tell Beth her true feelings when Mary was not around. Mom had even once said, "That man is a two-timing, worthless skunk."

    Or better yet:

    In fact, Mom was always happy to tell Beth her true feelings when Mary was not around. Mom had once even called Mary's husband a two-timing, worthless skunk.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No italics. (Those eager to argue about this will be ignored)

    That man is a two timing, worthless skunk, Mom had said. She was always happy to tell Beth her true feelings when Mary wasn't around.

    Your example is not very clearly one of literal thought. If it were, the fact that Mom said/says this would be part of that thought anyway. A better one might be:

    "You're very welcome," Britt said. To die messily and burn in Hell, he added to himself.

    On the other hand, as daemon pointed out, there's no reason to treat it as a full literal thought. It makes more sense to narrate it, with the quote treated as any other direct quote, as daemon did.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    :rolleyes:

    No argument, I posted a link to the detailed discussion. I tried to be fair posting the thread summary. Since you've chosen to assert your way or the highway, I will note you should have prefaced that with 'in your opinion' and point out your opinion is not unanimous.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to some people. But it's definitely not a universally accepted convention like, say, using quotation marks for spoken dialogue. There's a looooooooooong thread discussing it.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As time goes on, I'm not finding anyone who cares outside of this forum. I'm sure they are out there, but my experience doesn't bear out that it's a fringe convention.

    Just the other day in the new critique group I joined, the two published authors (one with a slew of best sellers) both told one of the members they needed to put the character's thoughts in italics.
     
  12. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I'd like to check A Feast For Crows. In Jaime's chapters, he's constantly remembering Tyrion's quote about Cercei. "And probably Moonboy for all I know." George RR Martin uses italics for thoughts, but he can probably do whatever he wants as long as the books get finished.
     

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