1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Thoughts in a different tense?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Alesia, Dec 26, 2013.

    Of all the things in writing, the one thing that confuses the heck out of me is how to write thoughts. Namely those seen in a first person-past tense narrative. Thoughts seemed to come naturally when I still wroe exclusively in present, but now I'm wondering abut a scenario like this:

    The italicized part is the thought, however that is not what she is thinking at present, rather what she was thinking at the time. I'm trying at all costs to avoid an "I thought" tag.

    Anyway, is it correct the way it is, or do I need some action sentence linked to it, or god forbid a thought tag?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I write them the way you have. The narrative is past tense but the thoughts are present tense the same way they'd be if you said them out loud.

    "Alright, Zoe. Let’s get this over with," I said to myself.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I second Ginger. It's correct as it is.
     
  4. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Thank you for posting this! I notice this when I am reading First person novels where the MC speaks to the reader using past tense. This confuses the hell out of me when writing.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    much depends on what comes next...

    plus, is she addressing herself as 'zoe'?... or is that a third person?
     
  6. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    She is referring to herself. This is the full paragraph, and the first sentence of the following one:


    She's sitting in her car about to meet her heroin addict sister after a rather difficult phone call. She's at her wits end, tired of bailing Allison out of trouble, and basically psyching herself up for what she intends to be their last contact - unless Ally accepts her ultimatum of getting clean.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    How so?

    A narrator might describe what someone said in past tense, but if they are telling the reader what a person actually did say, people don't talk in past tense.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what i said had nothing to do with past tense, or any tense... only with context...
     
  9. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    These are the entire two paragraphs in which this thought is embedded.

     
  10. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    Is there anything wrong with using what you refer to as an "I thought" tag? I see it used a lot in the books I read, and I sometimes use it as well.

    I'm also wondering if the sentence that precedes the italicized part is a thought. That's the way I read it.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's the preceding sentence, ajc... and i don't see how it can be considered a thought, when it's clearly narrative describing an action... what am i missing?
     
  12. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I think @AJC was going by the original, not the revision where I inserted an action clause preceding the thought.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you can do it either way. From the debate in the 'Italics for Thoughts' thread it is preferred by many. My personal preference is the italics and only a rare thought tag. But I also have a first person narrative. If one didn't, I think thought tags, with or without italics, would make more sense.


    Narration differs from direct thought. They serve different purposes in the story. I use direct thought as part of the story being told, like spoken words. The narration is the story telling.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This may help: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue

    No italics or quote marks for literal thoughts. That is the standard, not to restart a pointless argument (you know who you are).
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Standard by whose decree? :rolleyes: The thread is stickied with all the evidence for people to draw their own conclusions.

    However, the rest of your "He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue" is a valuable resource.
     
  16. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    Yes, I was talking about the sentence in the very first post. Sorry for the confusion.

    I get it now. One sentence is the narrator speaking, and the other sentence is the character thinking. That makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.
     
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  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I chime in rather late to say that I think that it's perfectly correct in your first example, but it's clearer with the keys action tag. The italics are completely optional in either case. (I would advise against them, but if you are in the "italics for thoughts" party, they're probably correct by the standards of said party.)
     

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