1. Eric Byers
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    Eric Byers Member

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    Thought attribution

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Eric Byers, Dec 9, 2014.

    I had a question about thought attribution and how to write inner dialogue, whether the use of quotations are necessary for instance

    "It's no wonder she is top of her class" he thought

    :It's no wonder she is top of her class

    Or if it need be signified at all,
    though I imagine that could be a bit confusing to the reader. Never knowing when it's inner dialogue or not. I do understand that it is purely a question of style and it really depends on the context. But, Id like to hear everyone yell at me today so... have at me :)
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No quotes are necessary, though the format is similar to dialogue. So you would write it as

    It's no wonder she is top of her class, he thought.

    The "he thought" tag makes it clear that the character is thinking this. You can also choose to leave out the tag, but it would have to be clear through context that these are the character's thoughts (as opposed to just narration).
     
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  3. Eric Byers
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    Eric Byers Member

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    Thank you :)
     
  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a reader, I prefer minimal filtering. That means, whenever possible, the narrator describes that which is perceived or thought, without reminding the reader who perceives or thinks it.

    So instead of:

    He read what she had written. "It's no wonder she's at the top of her class," he thought. Then he did something.

    Or even:

    He read what she had written. It's no wonder she's at the top of her class. Then he did something.

    Try:

    He read what she had written. No wonder she was at the top of her class. Then he did something.
     
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on context and genre and style and probably the position of the planets, but sometimes the "he thought" part is considered "filter words", which are undesirable.

    If you're in deep third, you can probably skip them, and certainly skip the quotation marks. Sometimes you need a mix. For example:

    Sara was staring at the board as if she had X-ray vision and was able to see right through the equations to the concepts behind them. She was scribbling fiercely, and John knew from experience that her notes would be insightful and complete. It was no wonder she was at the top of her class.

    There are filter words ("John knew") for part of it, because I needed to introduce the extra explanation of HOW he knew. But then the part at the end doesn't need a filter b/c it's obvious that it's his thoughts.

    If you want to set the thoughts off more, possibly because the precise wording is important, I'd suggest italics rather than quotation marks. Like:

    He took a seat next to her and tried to build up his confidence. You're a good guy. You're not bad looking. You generally smell okay. But it didn't work.


    ETA: Or... what daemon said.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is a good point that had not occurred to me. Sometimes, the information that causes a character to think something is just as significant of a part of the story as what the character actually thinks. In that case, I recommend writing a sentence where the topic is the basis for the thought, rather than the thought itself, and seeing if the sentence works:

    Staring at the equations on the board as if she had X-ray vision and could see the concepts behind them, Sara scribbled in her notebook. Her notes were always so insightful and complete, it was no wonder she was at the top of her class.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, I'm still left wondering (as a reader) how the narrator got the information about Sara's notes. My original "from experience" doesn't give a lot more detail, I admit...
     

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