1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Italics? Yes I'm going there

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, Jan 12, 2015.

    On another site I got some critiques for Not Pink that said I should put Not Pink's ( the robot's ) thoughts and his data errors in italics.
    For instance -
    Mr. Willoughby chuckles, rubs his forehead, and says, “Oh, like hell.”
    Max slaps Mr. Willoughby across the face.
    Warning! Warning! Violence!

    Would become -

    Mr. Willoughby chuckles, rubs his forehead, and says, “Oh, like hell.”
    Max slaps Mr. Willoughby across the face.
    Warning! Warning! Violence!

    I haven't read a lot of new books so I'm not up on whether or not italics are still used. I've seen them in a lot of horror novels. But contrariwise I've seen them not used when they could've been. To me it's not a big issue. I can put them in if it's needed and it will make things easier on the reader. If not I can leave them out. As a reader - do you think they're needed or do you think it cheapens the text?
     
  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cheapens the text. I think it is fine as is.
     
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  3. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Honestly ive grown up reading novels with italics for thoughts, or if not thoughts then for telepathy. Italics means "internal" to me, regardless of use, and if done well I believe makes things easier for me to understand. Because without the italics I think the author is suddenly going "Warning! Warning! Violence!" and that it's not an internal thought, but an ongoing conflict/fight.
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Sometimes I think the problem was the story had to be chopped up to be critiqued and it took the critiquers a while to understand the robot was the I pov especially if they were reading part 2 and didn't bother reading part 1. If you understood the robot was the I pov would it change this?
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
  5. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Yes. I have to say it would. Though I just got out of writing thoughts as italics, I write the thought so that it is plainly obvious to the reader that the character is thinking that. Then again, you're character is a robot, so that's a rather unique situation. I would say get some more opinions and see if any other writers have written from the perspective of a robot.
     
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  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ditto the 1-9 dude. It just seems so much more immersive without italicized inners. And in the latest books, there seems to be less italics used for thought than before, but that's just my limited view.

    This might help your confidence on the matter: I read the version of Not Pink that you entered in the 2013 Annual(???) Sci Fi Contest, and I was never once confused by the robot's data streams/updates/thoughts. Did any of the comments here mention an issue with that? I don't remember any that did. Don't forget that your story won the local vote:agreed:.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think they're needed. If you have a shifting point of view you'll probably need to be extra careful to communicate that you're in the robot's POV, because his thoughts may feel a little jarring if the reader doesn't immediately realize what's going on.

    Edited to add: This may be a case where a reader points out a problem and suggests a solution, where your reaction may be to acknowledge the problem and reject the solution. If the thoughts are confusing, they're confusing. But the solution may be a little tweaking of the thoughts, rather than using italics. (Or, if the thoughts confuse only a small portion of readers, those readers may be over-dependent on italics, and you may decide that catering to that writing style is not your problem.)
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Italics in the story doesn't cheapen anything. :rolleyes:

    Come on people, stick to what actually matters, not your personal preferences. What matters is, do the italics make the text more clear or not, and are there too many internal thoughts so that the italics would overwhelm the story?

    A very large part of the story is Not Pink's narration. However, only the short bleeps and blips are direct inner monologue.

    That's all narration except "&%^%#^%$ .....Data error" which is direct inner monologue. So only small bits of text would be italicized.

    There are no quotation marks so we can assume the Not Pink's thoughts are silent. On the other hand, she's a robot. That makes it less clear. The italics could suggest to the reader Not Pink's thoughts were out-loud robot dialogue rather than silent contemplations.

    Adding tags to NotPink's monologue doesn't fit well, it detracts from the cuteness of the robot thoughts:

    Max slaps Mr. Willoughby across the face.
    I think, Warning! Warning! Violence!​
    or
    Max slaps Mr. Willoughby across the face.
    Warning! Warning! Violence! I think.
    I don't think the story suffers from not using the italics. If Warning! Warning! Violence! was spoken aloud, it needs quotes. If not, italics could just as easily confuse the reader as make it clear the noises were internal.

    But that works both ways. Using the italics does not detract from the piece and it can make it clear to some people the noises are not being made out loud.

    I think because the italics could be confused as signifying robot noises rather than Not Pink's inner thoughts, they may do more harm than good.


     
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  9. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    They don't strictly need to be in italics, nor are italics "the slanted text of the devil" as some people often seem to think.

    Personally, I find italics for thoughts aren't necessary but they do tend to make things more immediately obvious, in the same way that quotation marks around dialogue isn't strictly necessary. My personal method for this type of thing is to put all internal dialogue in its own character style called "Internal Dialogue", so I can easily just edit the style to switch between italicised, underlined or regular at a moment's notice.

    Personally, I would say you should read/write the text without italics first, to make sure it is still clear without them. Then add them later (or don't) for extra clarity.
     
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  10. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    I use them for characters' internal monologues. I dont think it matters much unless you are self publishing, a print publishing house would presumably put it in the format they want.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Use them if you wish, ditch them if you wish. Clearly published books use them, which means they've passed the agent's test, the publisher's test and the editor's test, as well as multiple readers' tests. As long as there's not so many uses of italics that it overcrowds the narration throughout the book, I don't see the problem. I've never quite understood why many members on this forum seem to hate italics so much actually lol. In fact, in a writing workshop I attended hosted by a literary agent, the agent read the opening chapters of my novel and actually said I needed to put direct thoughts in italics.

    The only consideration you should be bothered by is perhaps if you feel the italics adds to the narration and its meaning or not. I think there're certain voices where italics are more appropriate than others, too.

    For me, I'll read it with or without italics - don't mind :) The only time I commented on someone's italics for internal thought was when these italics occurred several times a page, consecutively, to the point where I had to question why the author didn't just write in first person if she wanted to inject so many internal thoughts so often. (I was beta-reading for someone and stopped after one chapter - about 10 pages)
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If italics fit your style of writing, use them. If they don't, don't use them. If you prefer to make internal thoughts or speeches clear in some other way, by all means do so. If you like the concise nature of italicised thoughts, and realise that it gives you an extra tool to tell a story, go ahead and use them.

    Don't pander to prejudice.

    It's difficult to make the determination from @peachalulu's short excerpt. I'd say, from what's been given to us, that the last three words are probably the POV character's internal thought in the italicised version. The plain text version could be authorial comment. However, it might read much differently within context.

    I'd say do what works best. Get beta readers involved in reading the whole story, and get them to mark any places where they get confused. That should give you a good idea of what works and what doesn't.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2015
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  13. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I like the look of italics. They clarify and add some style to otherwise boring looking pages. Aesthetics count.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it works fine, either way. It's a matter of preferences. Ultimately, the argument against italics is a losing one because there is so much published evidence that doesn't support it. I just finished a book by best-selling author David Gemmell that uses them for internal monologue. Published by Del Rey, which is owned by Penguin Random House. The idea that major publishers don't use them can be disproven time and again.
     
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  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    We have yet to hear about a manuscript being turned down for an over use of italics, despite asking for such for a long time.
     
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  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No one knows the reasons behind a rejection because that sort of thing is never reported. So while no one can offer proof of that, what we can do is point to the many contemporary books/writers that don't use italics for thoughts. It's better to err on the side of caution, as this literary agent points out.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I note that in the link, above, Noah Lukeman refers to "heavy use" and "overuse" of italics, but does not say to avoid them altogether. Personally, I'm skeptical that any story that would be otherwise accepted will be rejected for use of italics for something like internal monologue, or for other uses that are not "heavy" uses throughout the manuscript.
     
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  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Wow, that is a lesson in how not to build a website. Not sure I want to take the advice of a man who designed a site that's only one .gif away from a geocities. When his own website is an unintuitive, reading-resistant, mess, he looses a lot of legitimacy in the, "make it readable" argument.
     
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  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Jack Asher Lukeman is a well-respected and very successful editor/agent, though. He's good, at least on the type of fiction he generally talks about, which seems to me to be the commercial best-seller variety.
     
  20. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Which is great, but his website was designed by a blind spider monkey. I can respect him, while hating his horrible online presence.
     
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  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, the web site looks like it was designed in 1995.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Here's an excerpt from the question:
    For the record, I think pages or even paragraphs of internal dialogue don't read well. In such a case, narration is likely the better choice. Or if the piece contains large sections of a character rambling in his head, italics are likely unnecessary for the reader to understand that's what is happening.

    With italics for ESP, I think it's still a convention in progress. If I see paragraphs of uninterrupted dialogue, be it aloud or silent, that is an issue in and of itself. Maybe there shouldn't be so much reliance on secret dialogue in the first place.

    By the way, we really should take this back to the sticky thread if we are going to continue.
     
  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But would you really want to work with an agent who's so picky that he'd disregard writing quality, story structure, characterisation and everything else in between just because there're italics in use for internal thought?

    And if italics were the last straw that broke the camel's back, then truth is your MS probably has way bigger problems than any concerns over italics...
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why is there a brand new thread for this? There's already a stickied thread which is already (in my opinion) far too long.

    It has been argued to death, and now you're exhuming the poor deceased equine and flaying the rotted flanks again.
     
  25. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Because the other thread doesn't address the use of italics for robot internal monologue.

    As to that I have two points:
    First the entire story is an internal narrative, so bringing italics for thoughts would separate the individual thoughts from the narrative without disturbing the flow with thought tags. In this case it might be especially fitting considering the themes of man made consciousnesses. In a way you are using the italics to represent that Not Pink is a thinking creature in the same way a human is.

    Second, a case could be made that, just like words from other languages, robot speak (like robot voice) should be in italics. A robot voice font could also be in order.
     
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  26. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There is a font called "Klaatu" that might work for a robot. Yeah, technically the font should be called "Gort," but still...
     

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