1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Italicized thoughts? Third person.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Jul 26, 2012.

    I am writing a book that is third person, omnipresent. I have some of the characters' thoughts in italicize. What are your thoughts? Is this lazy writing? Would your remove them?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Unpopular opinion:

    I don't mind and I don't view it as 'lazy writing'. If it makes my writing more understandable and convenient to readers, then I don't care if it's viewed as 'lazy writing'. It's just italics. It seems to be always writers that say 'Don't italicize thoughts because it's lazy'. To be honest, the target audience your writing probably for doesn't care if you italicized the thoughts as long as they understand. It also doesn't make the book bad. But since people are so against it, you're better off just putting: He thought/She thought.
     
  3. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    Even in my first person writing, I always italicize the main characters thoughts. To me, it is not laziness. Once you see it happen the first time in the novel you pick up on it. A lot easier than always writing: he thought, she thought. Do what you find comfortable. I have seen it done many ways and choose to italicize.
     
  4. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    That's one style that works. Another is to just put the thoughts in a sentence (no quotes) with a tag, as
    It's hot in here, he thought. See which one flows best for you.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To your three questions, in order:
    Don't do it
    Yes.
    Absolutely, immediately.

    Read He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The only use I ever heard of for a writer to use italics was in the case of the introduction of a word in another language the first time it is used. But then it shouldn't be italicized when used again. For example, "Early settlers in Cuba, unable to grow wheat, learned from the Tainos how to make a substitute for bread called casabe, which was made from the root of the yucca plant. Casabe is no longer popular in Cuba today."

    I don't know if this would still be acceptable. I suspect it would not be.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't do it. I don't care if it's lazy - the lazy thing can be the simplest, most graceful thing. I care that as a reader, it drags me out of the story and into the typography. I care that if the writing doesn't make the distinction between thoughts and other narrative clear, italics aren't going to be enough to solve the problem.

    A story that doesn't need the italics is going to be a story with a better, more elegant flow of words and images. If that's more work to create, then so be it.
     
  8. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    They may actually make it clear but people still get confused. For example, in one of my stories, I did not italicize the character's thoughts. Then someone got confused over it and suggested I did. So, that's just your personal preference. How many times have you heard someone say: 'Italics drags me out the story' or 'Wow, I really hated that book, the thoughts were in italics! Can you believe that?'

    It's all down to personal preference. Personally, I don't do it. But I don't mind books with thoughts italicized.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Are you putting them in the dialogue paragraph or separately? If it's a separate line and it's italicized that's different. However, if your writing third person, you can listen to what the character thinks and change it to third person. perhaps this works:

    Jeeze this water is cold, I'm shivering like a race horse!

    Jeeze, the water was cold and she shivered like a race horse

    or something like that. The first one is first person thought from the omniscient, the second a third person from the same narrative style without needing italics and sending the same message. It takes some work, and I struggled with it myself, but you can write it in such a way that the reader can tell it's the character's thoughts but it's in the dialogue.
     
  10. JessWrite
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    JessWrite Word Nerd & Proud! Contributor

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    Does the writer's opinion of italicizing thoughts differ depending on the age group they write for? All of the children's work I read has thoughts italicized.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i totally agree with cog, cf and ed... a good writer doesn't need to use italics to let the reader know when a character is thinking...

    whether or not this or that publisher chooses to put thoughts in italics, you should not do so in the ms...
     
  12. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    George R. R. Martin uses italicized thoughts and I think it works and flows really well.
     
  13. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    This. This. THIS.

    I used to use a lot of italicized thoughts as well, but I cut back on it when I realized that I was relying on them far too heavily. Writers tend to get caught up in these sort of stylistic things, I think, and it becomes very easy to overdo it.


    Personally, I've put down a book because the excessive use of italicized thoughts was just too much.
     
  14. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I use them occasionally. They're pretty easy to overdo, if the story involves much internal dialogue. "He thought" gets on my nerves, too, so most of the time, I simply make it clear from the verbiage that we are exploring the character's thoughts.

    But if it's a quick interjection and unclear that it's character thought rather that narrator observation, I'll italicize it.
     
  15. ck1221
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    ck1221 Member

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    Only time I use them and have seen it used is when someone is trying to emphasise a certain word in dialogue or thought such as " damn, your a real jerk"
     
  16. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    My suggestion is that you try it, try alternatives, and see what's working best for you after you have given it time to cool.

    My other suggestion is that strongly held opinions should not be mistaken for articles of fact.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've read stories in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in which characters' thoughts are italicized. I don't know whether the author or the editor chose to do that, though. I've also seen it in The New Yorker, but a proper example isn't right in front of me at the moment.

    So at least some professional publishers of short fiction in America do not object to thoughts in italics. If it's not an issue for publishers and editors, why is it a no-no for writers?
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why is it so important for you to argue against it?

    Some publishers object to it.
    Some don't
    None object to NOT using italics.
    It is technically incorrect to use italics for literal thought.
    You will be a better writer if you write clearly enough that the italics are unnecessary to indicate the texty is literal thought.

    If you want to maximize your chances of getting published, don't piss off the publishers. Or even irk them.
    What exactly is the point of your argument?
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't argue against it. I simply asked a question.

    Once again, I'm not arguing, just asking:
    1) Why is it "technically incorrect" to use italics for literal thought? Is there a manual that states that rule?
    2) If it is technically incorrect, then why do professional publications do it?

    I agree with this.

    Once again, I didn't make an argument. I'm trying to figure out the origin of the rule you're citing.
     
  20. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I've been asking myself this ever since people have been saying it.
    Readers don't even object to it (Well, most I assume)
    If it's not used excessively, what exactly is the problem if a publisher accepts the use of italics this way?
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have discussed this in great detail in MANY other threads, and you have argued the same way in most of them over the last couple years. I honestly have better things to do than repeat arguments you will continue to ignore.

    The threads are still around. Feel free to read them yet again, or to just do it your way.

    It's your manuscript. Do with it as you will.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because "a publisher" does not mean all publishers.

    If you write a book so that it depends on setting your thoughts in italics in order to be understood, then you have eliminated all publishers and agents that object to that choice. Even if a reader at one of these agencies or publishers otherwise likes your book, they would have to have faith that you possess the skill of writing thoughts so that they don't need italics in order to be understood, and they have to accept the delay while you go through your whole book and rewrite those thoughts. Odds are that they'll go on to the next book.

    If you write a book that does not use italics at all for thoughts, odds are that no publishers or agents are going to leap up and say, "_He didn't use italics?!_ Throw that manuscript out!"

    But if you do fear that, you can write your book so that it does not _depend_ on italics, but it nevertheless has thoughts in a specific named "thoughts" style. You are then prepared for a no-italics _or_ an italics-required style guide, just by changing the appearance of that style.

    While I'm opposed to italics for thoughts, I'm not without sympathy, because as I said in another thread, I love semicolons. I love them and I know that if I want to be published in the United States, I have to break myself of using them. And, heck, they're not even incorrect! Plus, I don't even have the consolation of just turning semicolons on or off, because using or removing a semicolon requires rewriting the sentence.

    But using semicolons will reduce my odds of getting published. Those odds are low enough. So the time will come that I scrub them out of my writing. I should be doing that now, but, well, I'm just not ready.

    (BTW, as a reader, I do indeed object to thoughts in italics. To me, they're like replacing a sugarbowl with sugar packets or a china teacup with a foam disposable cup--they may be more efficient, but they're far less graceful.)
     
  23. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Actually, in that case, the word should be italicized every time. Foreign language words that do not show up in an English dictionary are italicized every time they're used. Italics may be used for emphasis, but it quickly loses its impact if done too often.
     
  24. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    If your doing an extended monologue where you think about a past event in great depth, please in my opinion make the distinction between your monologue and the present time of your book. Use italics. Sure there will be dozens of people who say don't. Use it. I'm a reader and i'm going to get extremely confused if i can't figure out where your thought bubble ends and the story starts progressing in the present. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly comes to mind, the extended thought "bubbles" aren't differentiated from the story itself, and i hated that. I realise it was all a memory, but regardless it felt that the story wasn't moving at all for several chapters, but then moved forward about several months in 2 lines.

    If its a tiny packet of thought, less that one line, its not necessary, and personally i don't like it used in this case.
     
  25. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Which brings me back to my thought, which is now a question: would it be considered appropriate when using a word in a foreign language to italicize the word the first time it is used? I only ask because I've seen it done in the past and I know that practices change over time.
     

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