1. Sharklol
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    Sharklol New Member

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    Narration - Thoughts in 3rd person or 1st person?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sharklol, Aug 20, 2011.

    I wrote a short story a while ago. It's written with a 3rd person narrative in present time (sorry, I don't really know the right terms of narratives etc in English).
    The character thoughts are written nearly literally according to the characters thoughts throughout the text without any quotation marks or telling "thought - he/she thought", also in 3rd person (for example: "He checks his rearview mirror again. Is that car following him?") .
    A friend told me it might be more exciting if the thoughts were written completely literally (using the same example: "He checks his rearview mirror again. Is that car following me?"). I've tried some sentences with this but I get the feeling it might disrupt the flow or confuse the reader. However, I would like to know what other people think about this.

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    In short:
    He checks his rearview mirror again. Is that car following him?
    He checks his rearview mirror again. Is that car following me?
    Which is less confusing/more exciting/better flowing?

    The second makes more sense I guess, but it felt a bit odd for some reason.

    I know it's hard to see this in context with my whole story but any suggestions would be great,

    Sharklol
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty New Member Contributor

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    If it feels more comfortable to you sticking to third person then stick to it. The thoughts are already clear enough as thoughts, at least in the example. The fact you're using them at all adds immediacy: not all novels in third person will use thoughts even if they get quite personal in other ways, so when they do crop up it has been done for effect. It's not just a thing people are required to do by the type of narration.

    Another thing to worry about is throwing in a "me" might confuse someone who thinks you're mixing first person and third without realising it's reported thoughts rather than, like, a second strand of narrative.

    And also will you keep doing it consistently, even in times when urgent thoughts aren't required? Where do you draw the line? One for effect will seem odd, using it spaced out here and there along with more heavy usage at dramatic points will be good, but if every few paragraphs your character weighs in you either need to cut back, tell the ideas contained in the sentence a different way, or just use first person.
     
  3. Sharklol
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    Sharklol New Member

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    Thanks for responding so quickly,

    The story is quite short and pretty event-packed. I don't use it just for the effect, just at points where thoughts feel necessary to me. Because there are hardly times of real rest in the story, it is used quite often.

    I use thoughts like this because the MC is growing paranoid, afraid and sorry about what he's previously done. Because of this I felt that I needed a lot of real thoughts instead of things like "he wonders what X" (and because loads of he thoughts seemed odd).

    But maybe you are right in just using first person completely, I'll try reading some scenes as if in first person and see how it goes.
     
  4. coolie96
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    coolie96 New Member

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    As Melzaar said, write what feels right to you. If you like it, others most likely will.

    But if you feel you should change the perspective for a line, write his/her thoughts in italics.

    For example: He checks his rearview mirror again. Is that car following me?

    It gives the reader the sense that it is not from the narrators perspective, but at the same time it is not spoken out loud. I have seen other authors write this way (i.e. Stephen King) and to me it reads fluently.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sigh. Please do not italicize thoughts.
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki New Member

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    Why not? I know it's a rule of Chicago Style not to italicize thoughts, but I still don't understand it since there are a ton of great books by a ton of great authors out there that do have thoughts italicized. I mean if the industry wants to set a standard about it, why allow it to exist? Personally, I would argue that sometimes italics are needed for thoughts. Not all the time or in every story, but depending on tone, setting, and characters, the simple change in font can add quite a bit to a story ... if done right, which it usually is in professionally published pieces. Anyway, any clues to why the rule is a rule that's spouted quite a bit but not always followed by the amateurs or the professionals?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Please search the General Writing and teh Spelling, Puctuation, and Grammar forums. I have discussed this at great length and frequency.
     
  8. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Member

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    Hmmmm, I always seem to prefer books in past tense, whether they're first person or third. I'm not saying that it's better, but I find it easier to write. If English isn't your native language then find the style that feels the best.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Breaking Beard Contributor

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    In that case, the former is preferable to me, but both sound equally awkward.

    In the first example, you've got the awkwardness that the "is" creates.
    "He checked his rear view mirror again. Was that car following him?"
    It retains the feel that you'd be going for, that it's actually happening, not that's it's already happened, and it sounds a lot less awkward.

    In the second example, it's third person, and then suddenly first person. It's jarring.


    On the note of italicisation, italics are used to show emphasis and for a few other bits and pieces. Just because published authors have done it, it doesn't make it okay.
    A lot of published authors have had problems with alcohol and drug abuse. Are you going to go out and get a drug habit? No. So don't italicise thoughts.
     

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