1. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Showing characters' thoughts.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Shadow Dragon, Nov 1, 2008.

    I was just wondering what is the standard way of showing what your characters are thinking. I usually put it in quotes and then say thought afterwards. For example:

    "aa;sjlflksaj" thought so and so.

    However I've also seen it been by putting it in italics. So, how do you guys think it should be done?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, calls this internal dialogue. The preferred method is to treat it exactly like external dialog, but with no quote marks at the outer level. Alternatively, you may punctuate it exactly as external dialogue, with the quote marks, but that is becoming less common.

    You should not use italics to identify it, despite the fact that you may see it that way in print sometimes; it is a publisher's choice, but the writer should never rely upon italics to communicate to the reader that it is internal dialogue. It is weak writing to do so. Instead, make the context tell the reader that it is the character's thoughts

    Example:
    Just be consistent, and use one or the other form throughout your story.

    This article may be helpful: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  3. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Personally, I don't do anything:

    Jason raised an eyebrow. Just who does she think she is?


    The fact that he's thinking it seems self-evident, and thus 'he thought' strikes me as redundant. I'm not sure what you'd call that. I tend to treat third person omniscient as if it were first person, only using 'he' instead of 'I'.
     
  4. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of my favorite things about first-person is I don't have to set anything up. Every word on the page is thought and there's no question whose thoughts they are... unless the narrator can read minds. Fortunately, only on of my characters can do that. :rolleyes:

    On topic:
    I'm not a fan of seeing thoughts punctuated the same way as external dialogue (with quotes). It's too hard to follow and usually leaves me saying "OMG he did he seriously just say that out loud... oh, nevermind, he didn't." Can be really confusing if not handled properly.
     
  5. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, maybe this isn't correct from the writing purist point of view but as a reader, I think the most effective way to convey thoughts are italics. It's straight to the point, and leaves no room for confusion especially if you're going to use internal monologue a lot. While some authors use the italics then finish it off with he thought, or he mused, I prefer somebody like George R. R. Martin (a big proponent of voicing his characters thoughts), who just puts the thought into italics and thats it. Clearly differentiated from the narrator and flows seamlessly, which in the end is exactly what you want.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I'm also of the italics party. I'm not trying to get published so the whole publishable issue isn't an issue for me! I just find it easier to differentiate spoken words from thoughts that way. And despite what some people say, I don't find it harder to read. *shrug*

    Plus, my characters communicate telepathically a lot in some stories, and putting that in quotes just would not work. The reader would assume everyone around them can hear what they're saying. Quotes would work for simple internal thoughts (though I don't use that method), but for telepathy, it's a whole other ballgame.

    I've seen internal thought not set off from the rest of the text in any way whatsoever--no quotes, no italics--in published works. I hate that method the most. The reader can't tell if it's actual quoted internal thought or just the narrator summarizing the character's thoughts, and again, it's hard to tell if it's even thoughts at all. I've also seen quotes used, and italics--the last is easiest to read/understand for me.

    Just my opinion.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is actually what I'm talking about. Just as external dialogue doesn't always require a tag, the same is true of internal dialogue. The context makes it clear.

    Joker, what I do is I have a named foramatting style in Word called internal dialogue. It's contained in the Manuscript template I set up. I always express internal dialogue in that style. By default I render it as normal text, but I can turn it red to make sure I have marked it all, or render it in italics if a publisher would prefer it that way.

    But when I proofread the story, or put it up for display, I leave all the text decoration off. If it's not clear from the context that it is literal thoughts, it's a writing flaw I need to address.

    tehuti, telepathic dialogue is still external dialogue, so it should be rendered as spoken dialogue, with the context making the mode of communication clear. The same would be true if your characters are communicating via walkie-talkie, or sign language, or even texting. I'd even treat a thought discussion between two independent minds in the same body as external dialogue.

    Typographic tricks may be easier, but in my opinion, it is not better writing.

    EDIT: Notice that the quoting of Emerald's post turned EVERYTHING to italics, but it did not alter the clarity of what he wrote!
     
  8. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    That's smart!

    I really hate the thoughts with "quotes." I was about to kill Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo because both of them did that. I don't think that I've used italics. I've thought about using italics, but never really needed to, instead it's just sort of...there. But also, mostly everything I write is in first person.
     
  9. Rem Nightfall
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    Rem Nightfall Banned

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    'Ello, for novels I use italics or if I wrote novels I would italics. I like the idea of contrast of regularly view and inner character view. I find it a lot easier in comics though cause all you do is put thoughts in thought bubbles. And so I see in a novel italics as a thought bubble.
    Hope that helped.

    Here and Now
    ~Rem Nightfall
     

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