1. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Inner Dialogue. Or should I say, Inner Conversation.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Blue Night, Dec 17, 2011.

    My story begins with a man’s thoughts. It spans two pages.

    But as I was researching some grammatical issues the other day, something stood out which made me re-evaluate my beginning.

    I read a piece about inner-dialogue. I passed it off as ‘one site, one opinion’.

    I went to several sites. The overall message was the same; don’t be excessive with anything. Too much use of italics is an eyesore. Too much reference to ‘I thought’ is unnecessary.

    I went to the first page of my manuscript. Okay, there is no way of getting around excessive. What if I used quotation marks?

    It doesn’t seem to work any better. The man is simply thinking to himself. Must he be quoted repeatedly?

    What is your input on the following piece?
    ___________________________________

    I take notice. The passing island is nothing more than shrubs, weeds and dunes as far as the eye can see. Mile after mile, it’s the same; emptiness, desolation and loneliness.

    I slipped into thought. What is the definition of cheating on a woman? To hide something? To get away with something? To do something behind her back?

    You must know. You’re the guilty one.

    I nodded. A tear streamed down my cheek. Yes, I am. But not of that. Nothing I did was hidden. I didn’t get away with it. It wasn’t behind her back. She saw it every day.

    She saw what every day?

    I began to tremble. I put my head into my hands.

    You can’t go on like this. What did she see?

    I was reluctant. She saw...

    The first teardrop hit the floor.

    You must say the words. What did she see?

    ___________________________________
     
  2. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I personally would call it inner thoughts.
    A dialogue is between two people and so is a conversation.
     
  3. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    He knows it is thoughts. That is not what he is asking; he is asking how he should format them.
     
  4. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Honestly, you do not need italics at all for this. It is already clear they are thoughts. So, I would get rid of them, and keep everything else the same.

    Edit: Nice piece by the way, I enjoyed it.
     
  5. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Hey Jhunter, good to bump into you again. Thanks for the comment.
    So let me ask you. If I remove all Italics, wouldn't it remove the distinction between actions and thoughts?
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Not if it is written well enough to make the distinction clear. If you pick up a random novel, you'll find that many of them (most, probably) do not use italics or some other device to distinguish thoughts and actions. There are some that do use them, of course. I feel you should go with what you prefer, but from what I gather it is generally more accepted not to use the italics.
     
  7. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I would avoid puttings both inner thoughts and dialogue together.
     
  8. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    "I slipped into thought" takes care of the italics job. The readers know thoughts are coming with that.

    Also, for this example it is easy to distinguish actions and thoughts. You did a good job with it.

    Italics are generally used for when you do not use something like, "I slipped into thought."

    Quick example:

    Bob saw Jill walk into the party and dump a beer on Jim's head. I wonder what he did this time.

    Bob saw Jill walk into the party and dump a beer on Jim's head, he couldn't help but wonder what he did this time.

    Obviously this could be written better, but the principle is the same.
     
  9. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Double post.
     
  10. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    There is no dialogue in this piece. You should read his post before commenting on it.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I agree, definitely go with what you prefer. I was just pointing out that using italics in your piece was redundant and not needed. But you can easily write it how you please; it would just need a slight edit if you are going the italics route.
     
  12. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    @ Steerpike and Jhunter:

    Your statements are dead on with what I read on various writing sites. So I know you are right.

    The reason I didn’t just simply abide was because they used short bursts of inner-dialogue as examples. So, in that sense, it didn’t apply to me. Also, I could find no resources on how to write a lengthy inner-dialogue.

    But ultimately, I think you two will prevail. The italics will have to go.

    Actually, this will be a good lesson for me. I guess I will find out if I can pull off a two page self-discussion without any tools.

    Wow. That’s going to take some skill.

    Now that I think about it, that’s going to be hard.
     
  13. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Lengthy thoughts does not change the rules, you just keep doing the same thing. The only difference is one is longer than shorter. So the examples you read on your other resources still hold true for any length of work.
     
  14. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I'm one who prefers italics for thoughts, but only when they change tense or person (e.g., They would show him, he thought. They'll show me, he thought (just to be clear, I would never italicize the first, but always the latter regardless of the "he thought" tag). This is what you're doing. I would leave the italics. They look fine to me, but that is my personal preference, too.

    Edited to add: One of the reasons I like to do it this way is because you can give it the feel of dialogue and visually set it apart from the regular prose. Some folks don't like this and prefer the distinction be made only through the words. That's fine, too. In the end, it's the writer's choice of style.
     
  15. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Just like Raki, I prefer italics for thought, but I also prefer better writing, and I think better writing uses no typeset to indicate thoughts. That's an opinion, though. I've read tons of books that go with italics and tons that don't. I haven't taken a poll, so I can't tell if it's a fifty-fifty split or where the majority is, but my suggestion is lose the italics and make the thoughts obvious some other way. If you don't like that, keep the italics and then, when it comes time to submit and you have an indication that the magazine/agent/publishing house/what-have-you doesn't like italics, you can do an easy search for the italic typeset and get rid of the relevant italics. That's what my plan is.

    Sometimes the switch to inner thought is obvious when the book goes to first person (He tapped his chin. I prefer the blue tie.) which would make a typesetting trick unnecessary. If the book is already written in first person, you don't have that luxury, but at the same time, first person already implies an inner thought at work throughout the story, so this level of inner thought becomes moot. (I tapped my chin. I preferred the blue tie.) The problem comes when you use third person and past tense, and the thought isn't about the POV character. (He tapped his chin. The blue tie is better.) It looks here as if the writer just slipped up tenses. It's not obvious in this case that the second sentence is inner thought, so a "he thought" or a rephrasing might be necessary. Rephrasing is probably better (He tapped his chin and decided on the blue tie).

    Your example is in first person, so you might not have to use some trick. Then again, the character looks like a MPD sufferer, so you might have to indicate the switch. You could change the thoughts to exposition (I slipped into thought. What was the definition of cheating on a woman? ...) but I wouldn't suggest that; it would ruin what you have going.

    Check out Richard Bachman's (Stephen King) Roadwork. He has a guy who often uses this thought duality. I can't remember what trick he used for the back and forth, but I think he named each character and often used those names: "Brian, you're being a hypocrite. // Shut up, Gary." Something like that.
     
  16. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    lostinwebspace: I have read many of your posts in the past and enjoy your thorough comments.

    This man is in a boat by himself en route to his destination. He has lost his fiancé and he is pondering where he went wrong. He’s depressed. He doesn’t suffer from MPD.

    He’s beating himself up. He made a big mistake and can’t admit it. So he’s thinking it out.

    This story is written entirely in first person. And I didn’t provide the very beginning paragraphs. So it’s slightly out of context.

    And you’re the second to address the ‘I slipped into thought’ part. I guess I need to toss that out.

    With these things said, I wish I could have a renewed response from you. I do benefit from keen eyes.
     
  17. Alex W
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    Alex W Contributing Member

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    May I suggest reading the book 'Dark Moon'? It's possibly my favourite piece of literature. It's not the best either, I just really like the story itself and the characters.

    Regardless, in the book the main character has two souls of sorts, something appears in him through his abuse as a child called 'Dace'. Dace can actually come to the forefront of his mind and is him, two characters in one dialogue. Dace is the fighting part of him as the character employs himself as a mercenary, and Dace does the killing. He himself is just a normal guy from the period.

    I could go on but the main point is that these two often have conversations and it's handled exceptionally well. I would suggest either looking for it online or atleast exerts of it online to see how he handled it. It was very well done. The writer is Daved Gemmell, and I believe he does indeed use italics.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand why you have present and past tense mixed together here. One or the other would be fine, but not both.

    Also, why the 'slipped into thought'? The whole thing is his thoughts, whether he has it in coherent sentences or remembered dialogue, whatever, it's still thoughts going through his mind and his POV. All the 'I nodded' etc are totally redundant. IMO, they significantly weaken the passage.

    Also, italics are absolutely unnecessary, and yes, very annoying to read for pages of thought. Believe what you've read criticising them.

    None of this is a comedown on the rest of the content or quality of the writing, but this is not the review page, so I don't want to get into details.
     
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  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    italics are intrusive there... good writers don't need to resort to fancy fontery to let readers know when someone is thinking...

    i don't get the character having a dialog with himself, unless he's schizoprhenic...
     
  20. Alex W
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    Alex W Contributing Member

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    I would seriously challenge the idea that 'good' writers don't have to use italics etc, it's a tool available and works well in such an instance.
     
  21. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    I want to thank everyone for their posts. Trust me; the advice goes straight from this page and into my manuscript.
    madhoca, thank you for your statement: “I don't understand why you have present and past tense mixed together here. One or the other would be fine, but not both.”
    That is very helpful. Consider it ‘applied’.
    CraigPay, you said: I would class "I slipped into thought" as a 'thinker attribution' which contemporary writing now tends to avoid.
    That has been mentioned before and I have already made the statement to drop it.
    So here’s where I stand:
    1) Remove the italics. It’s obviously frowned upon.
    2) Remove “I slipped into thought.” The reader get’s the idea.
    3) Be mindful of tense-slipping. Very good point. Oversight’s like these are critical.

    My posting here was a technical one concerning the use of italics. I selected a piece which dove right into that. So I understand context is missing. And thanks madhoca for not treating this as a writing submitted for review. Now that we’re on the subject. If I had posted the whole context of the man’s thoughts, I probably would have been cited for posting in the wrong place.
    My question has been effectively answered. I can now go through these first pages and make the appropriate corrections.
     
  22. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Thanks Alex W for the recommendation of Dark Moon. I'm certainly going to look into it.
     
  23. Alex W
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    Alex W Contributing Member

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    No problem. If you can't find the book or don't think you've got the time then drop me an inbox message and i'll type up an internal conversation from the book for you. I went to check the writer of the book when I posted here and i've been reading a few chapters this morning, still love it! It's getting a little worn now though :D
     
  24. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Follow up
    Alex W - I found a readable version online. Of course, there's only a couple of chapters available.
    You're not kidding. He quickly uses italics. And lot's of it.
    I actually laughed when I read, “Why do you write your books, Master Gatian? No-one buys them.”
    Something so simple put a smile on my face.
     
  25. Alex W
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    Alex W Contributing Member

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    Ahhh! Glad you found something :) He does indeed use them alot, but it's done very well throughout the novel. Towards the end of the book Dace leaves Tarantaio (whether forever or not i'll not spoil for those yet to read it) but the two begin to discuss their relationship and why Dace exists etc. It's done very well. And of course there is often humour, Dace is an (almost) heartless killer, so that cold personality combined with wit makes for some great one-liners.

    The character reminds me of Morrigan from the Dragon Age series if you've ever played that. Regardless, for me the italics work very well and I would consider using them in your position :) I certainly don't think it makes it any less of a story to include them.

    The only hitch to using them would be that if you're having internal conversation and using italics then you really need an opposing question/personality/thought process rather than just the odd self question. And even then i'd say it'd still work.
     

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