1. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Interjecting a character's thoughts

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Burnistine, Aug 11, 2015.

    I'm working on a romantic drama and I have a question. While rewriting chapter 1, I'm wondering if I can get by with interjecting thoughts in the middle of a narrative. Here's how I originally wrote it. Highlighted in green is how I want to write it.

    Original Version
    But before he launched his raft, something caught his eye. Twenty-five yards away, to his left, he gazed at something peculiar—frightful. A woman stood on the riverbank with no life jacket, no raft, no helmet. He didn't remember seeing her earlier and wondered if she intended to water raft alone. That's dangerous, he thought. Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled she stood in cold water in what appeared to be a dress. He looked beyond her in search of others, but there was no one else in the canyon but the two of them.

    Revised Version
    But before he launched his raft, something caught his eye. Twenty-five yards away, to his left, he gazed at something peculiar—frightful. A woman stood on the riverbank with no life jacket, no raft, no helmet. He didn't remember seeing her earlier and wondered if she intended to water raft alone. That's dangerous, he thought. Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled she stood in cold water in what appeared to beA dress? He looked beyond her in search of others, but there was no one else in the canyon but the two of them.

    Thanks for your input.
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    The second sounds perfectly normal to me. Interjecting character's thoughts into a close 3rd person narrative is standard practice.

    In fact, you already do the same in the sentence prior to the one in green, when you say '... he thought.'

    The only real difference with the line in green is that you're letting us 'mind read' his thoughts, rather than telling us his thoughts. Nothing wrong with that.

    You need to watch your punctuation, though. I found this line a little confusing:

    'Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled she stood in cold water in what appeared to beA dress? He looked beyond [...]'

    The comma before 'baffled' leaves it unclear. Is it Robert who's baffled or the woman?

    'Robert craned his neck and squinted. Baffled, she stood in cold water in what appeared to beA dress? He looked beyond [...]'

    Indicates the woman is baffled.

    While:

    'Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled. She stood in cold water in what appeared to beA dress? He looked beyond [...]'

    Indicates it is Robert who's baffled.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
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  3. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Awesome. Thanks for the quick response.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like the second one, because it's a direct thought ...although I'd uncap the "A," because what comes after the dash is still part of the same sentence.

    I had one thought about the piece as a whole, although what comes before this excerpt might contain my answer. But why is the woman's appearance 'frightful?' In fact, your POV character seems concerned about her, because what she's doing is dangerous, not frightened of her. Are you sure 'frightful' is the word you want? I don't see anything in the description of her that makes her frightful. She is out of place, unexpected, possibly in trouble, but not frightful. Maybe her sudden, unexpected appearance might have given him a wee fright, but so would anything that he's not expecting to be there, including the sudden appearance of his best friend! That doesn't make the woman frightful. Frightful implies that she's a horrible-looking individual, who has him scared out of his wits. Instead, he seems to be wondering who she is, how she got there, and maybe if she needs his help.
     
  5. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Jannert and Ourjud, thanks. As for as ". . . peculiar--frightful" I think you made a valid point. I thought about replacing it with "scary." I'm still rolling that around in my head. However, all the other words I chose meant the same as "peculiar." So, I deleted "frightful." At least until I can come up with a more appropriate word. She is not a sight for sore eyes, although she's ragged and too thin. But she wouldn't make him cringe; maybe scared for her; but not repulsive.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In your example, I'm assuming that the green and the boldface wouldn't be in the final product. :) I just wanted to note that the italics don't need to be either.

    Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled she stood in cold water in what appeared to be—A dress?

    would work fine.
     
  7. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    This will read as follows:

    Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled. She stood in cold water in what appeared to be—a dress?

    There will be no italics or bold lettering.
     
  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    So it's just me who thinks that sentence in unclear and badly punctuated?

    Please tell me, OP, who in this sentence is the baffled party?
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I suppose it's unclear in the sense that the narrator isn't there to grab the reader by the lapels and say, "You see those two words, 'A dress'? Those a literal thoughts. Literal, got it? The character had those exact words in his mind, like he was saying them, only silently in his head. Got it? Got it? OK."

    I'm not trying to be snarky here, I'm jut overstating in an effort to be clear. Direct thoughts without italics have ambiguity. And I consider that a good, not a bad, thing. I went on about that opinion at greater length in this post:

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/italics-for-thoughts.32989/page-37#post-1352748
     
  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    You missed my edited post. The character's thought is perfectly clear, as I already said in my very first reply.

    I'm referring to the comma before 'baffled'.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah. Yes. Unclear.
     
  12. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Robert is the one who is baffled. Not the woman. So, it should be written as follows:

    Robert craned his neck and squinted, baffled. She stood in cold water in what appeared to be--a dress?
     
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