1. Leena
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    Leena New Member

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    Writing a characters thoughts & dreams... How??

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Leena, Oct 27, 2010.

    In reality, people can be quite complex individuals. In my make-believe world it's important that my characters have just as much depth so a very strong connection could be made between my readers and my characters. My style is to simply write a story... a movie playing in the readers mind rather than having my readers live directly through my main character. Since this is all so very new to me, I do know that there is a term for this style of writing... I just can't seem to remember what it's called at this time! We express emotions... dream... work jobs... have homes... families, etc... We all have unique characteristics and every once in a while find ourselves deep in thought. My character is emotional... and, well... THINKS... A LOT!! So what is the proper way to write what my character is thinking/dreaming about in this particular style? Do I italisize (sp??) the thoughts/dreams? I've got absolutely no experience or education in creative writing/novel writing... It kind of feels like I may be mixing styles! Please... any tips and advice would be absolutely golden!!! Thanks to all who are willing to offer me their knowledge... and time!!!
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't italicize. Also, don't say ("____," he thought) after every sentence.

    Something like....

    Mary sat slumped in the kitchen chair, the overhead fan stirring up dust around her head. Rain sliced jagged rivers across the glass windows outside. The drumming of the raindrops highlighted the silence of the room and jolted her into the raw memories she rarely explored. Three years ago...

    And from there, write the memory as though it were present tense. Readers will know it isn't.

    For dreams, you can use a similar approach, but I think dreams can be made more artistically. If it's a surreal nightmare, you can write it with a surreal feel, you know?
     
  3. Leena
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    Leena New Member

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    Mallory, thank you... much appreciated!!!
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is that stream of consciousness style? Worth looking into... Tends not to be used in its most intense form for novels very often, but you can pick up some techniques from reading about it anyways.
     
  5. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    Personally, I hate when characters have dreams that are super-exaggerated depictions of their fears. It just feels really cheesy, especially in movies. I dunno, maybe it's just because I don't dream all that much, and don't know how they work. If you want to see dreams done awesome, see Inception.
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that is a cliché used in many comedies, isn't it?

    I used to remember my dreams a lot when I was younger. Dreams are usually absurd and incoherent. They jump back and forth between places, objects appear and disappear, people are exchanged, and so on, without the dreamer realising how strange it is. Object, people and places you have seen reappear in dreams, but in strange, new combinations, and there may also be ones you don't remember seeing in real life.
     
  7. Leena
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    Leena New Member

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    Okay, thanks to all, really... but I'd love to hear from more people that could possibly answer my question... no offence! Mallory answered... thanks again girly! I get the memories but any more examples for an intense dream (like bedtime sleeping dream) or thought (mentally talking to ones self or a day dream). An example would be... well, just like in a horror flik... an axe murderer running after Molly. Just as he swings his axe Molly wakes up screaming in the middle of class. How do you write something like that?? Would love to get a little more advice... pretty please??

    My story starts with a vivid dream about a mysterious woman that pops into my characters head... it's a reoccurring dream and after every visit the dreaming individual learns a bit more about this woman... One of those dreams that leaves you wondering... does it have meaning? An actual person... or not?? Ya know what I'm sayin?

    If this doesn't make any sense and I'm just an idiot that obviously isn't getting it, I apologize... Just reaching out for a bit more help is all!!!

    Thanks guys! :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just study how dreams/thoughts are handled by the best writers [does not equal the most popular!] in their critically acclaimed works...

    but i agree you should not use italics... good writers don't have to resort to fancy fontery to let readers know when someone's dreaming/thinking...
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Okay, let me try to help more. :)

    For dreams, I'd really recommend that you avoid the scenario where the MC wakes up in a cold sweat right before the part in the dream that involves the murderer/rapist/monster/realizing she's naked at a midterm college final/whatever the case may be.

    It is cliche, and has been done loads.

    If it were me....

    I would introduce little ties to the MC's real life in order to show that the dream's significant, without saying it's significant. Show, don't tell -- always keep that in mind, it's the Golden Rule of writing.

    Okay, let's use the mystery woman example. Your MC is in her room, reading in bed, and she puts the book down to rest her eyes. Then, vividly describe the scene of the dream.

    Don't -- whatever you do -- don't use phrases like "she drifted off," "her eyes grew heavy," "darkness washed her awareness away," or any other cheesy phrase to transition into the dream. Give us a cue that she's falling asleep like what's described above, and then get into the dream.

    Like I said before, write the dream about the mysterious woman...but don't go the route of describing a woman's looks and how she's mysterious, that's a little bit too cheesy-romance-novel-ish lol. Instead, really focus on amping up the tone you're going for.

    Let's say you want a creepy tone (I write horror and dystopia, so am good with creepy). Ok, maybe the MC falls asleep while babysitting or at a friend's or working late (anything where she has to walk home at night after waking up) and pictures the woman waiting outside the door, or approaching her from behind. It really doesn't have to be something axe-murderer-ish. Unknown dreams are the scariest. I have nightmares about someone chasing me up a hill when I can't see them but know they're gaining. Anyways.
    So then, after she walks home, she sees a woman on the street...she looks like the woman from the dream...don't blatantly state it that way, but describe them similarly and make it obvious..then insert really creepy paranoia thoughts into the MC's head..you get the idea, right?

    SHOW the dream's effects, don't tell them. :)
     
  10. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Characters' Thoughts

    From my experience, I was taught the rules of dialogue and how the dialogue is written if the character is thinking. I am still a new novel writer though, but some things that I learn out about formatting thoughts are as follows:

    Direct Thought: A direct thought is what the person said in his mind and it is italicized.

    Am I going to pass out? I thought to myself.

    Indirect thought: This is where the person thinks about something, but he/she does not think about it in words. The indirect thought would be part of narration, and it should not be italicized nor have an opening and closing quotation.

    I thought that I was going to pass out. Who knows, because the sun is too hot, making me feel dizzy?

    Direct Quote: This is where the person actually say something, rather than thinking about it. It should have the opening and closing quotation marks.

    "Am I going to pass out?" I asked myself, talking to myself. "Who knows, because the sun is too hot, making me feel dizzy."

    Indirect Quote: Indirect quotes are part of narration.

    The sun is so hot, that I passed out.

    I hope this help a little bit.

    If your character is having a dream, the dream is written the same way you are writing in the character's reality.

    Example

    I am walking home because I am tired and restless. Therefore, I lay down on the couch and fall asleep.

    Meanwhile, I am stuck in a car, where water is filling it up.

    "What the heck?" I panic. "Help! Get me out of this car!"

    I am trying with all my might go break myself out of the car, but I can't seem to burst the windows.

    As the water covers my face, I wake up into fear.

    "AHHH!!"
    Antonio immediately runs up to me. "Are you okay dude?"
    "Yea...I just had the weirdest dream that I was in a car with water filling it up."

    Antonio suddently turns into a monster.

    "What the heck?!" My heart pounds faster. "How did you change into a monster?"

    He picks me up and tries to put me in his mouth. As he tries to swallow me, I wake up, jumping out of my couch.

    "I hope this isn't another dream." I wonder.

    This is how I write my book if my character is in a dream, the same way I would write it if he's not having a dream. It is also best that you remember where your character has fallen asleep at, which is his couch if it is a vivid dream. If he wakes up in a cold place, then you would give your reader a hint that the character is in a vivid dream. Until you finally narrate the character waking out of his couch, then he would probably remain in the recurring dream. I hope this isn't confusing. I get that sometimes too.
     
  11. Leena
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    Leena New Member

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    Mallory, you are a GEM! And thanks so very much Reggie... LOL on the dream btw!! Many many thanks to EVERYONE for your time. Your creative little brain gerbles are quite nifty and much appreciated... thanks for sparing a few guys!!! *snicker* Sorry... you'll come to know me as a bit of a qwerky kook-a-loo!! :p

    What a fabulous tool this website has become... Dreams are gonna be fun fun fun!!! :D

    Lookin' forward to your future support... MWAAAH!!! ;)
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I did with mine was to continue it throughout the book - my MC kept having a dream about a big seabird (even scarier in my world where it is the equivelent of the devil with a beak).

    He had the dream several times and then was waking up tired and exhausted. He woke up and threw something at his brother - was annoyed it had missed etc. His schoolwork was suffering. Or when the cat is miaowing loudly he asks him to deal with the bird. One he wakes and clings onto his valet but can't cry - I have several you are welcome to see them PM me if you do.
     
  13. erader2
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    erader2 Member

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    what if the MC is talking to himself/herself? I'm writing a story where most of the time the MC is alone so most of the dialogue is either to his dog or himself.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If he is speaking aloud, punctuate it like ordinary dialogue.

    Literal thoughts are in plain text, and not enclosed in quote marks.

    He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  15. erader2
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    erader2 Member

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    So I should NEVER use italics for thoughts in a first person story or use 'I think' ?
    I was just curious because i was only using 'i think' when the MC thought in a certain way like 'i thought, hazily'

    I guess I just don't see what the big deal is with thoughts to himself being in italics. Certainly if a vast majority of the text was in italics it would be irritating and hard to read, but I've definitely seen plenty of books with thoughts in italics. Especially because there's a difference between 'a thought' and a 'thought to ones self.' You don't always verbalize thoughts you have you just make connections in your head, but sometimes you actually hear the words run through your head. At least I do
     
  16. Three
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    Three Member

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    Unconscious dreaming is easy. I don't know about other people, but I find those scenes the easiest and most fun to write. You can morph people into other people. The character can suddenly appear in a totally different setting. There can suddenly be little cakes falling from the sky on the shore of a whiskey ocean while your dreamer and another character argue about whether she's keeping her sewing needle or not. You can do whatever you want.

    If there's a woman appearing in the dreams, seeming to take over her mind to try to send her a message, you can have quite an abrupt shift when she appears. She can be the only thing that makes sense, yet the dreamer doesn't understand why she's there. The rest of the dream shifts and contorts but the woman stays constant, determined to have her message heard.

    Depending on how much influence you'd like the woman to have, she could take over your character's dream completely and show a flashback from her life. The dreamer could go from falling off of a cliff whilst clinging to a particularly fluffy mountain goat to standing in a small, cluttered kitchen while the woman and her husband fight about whether or not to keep the baby. Or whatever.

    The great thing about dreams is that you need no continuity. You can jumble up events that happened to her earlier that day or jumble up a bunch of new events that never happened. You can also jumble up a bunch of things that seem random and unfitting, that are actually metaphors to issues the character is facing.

    As for getting into dreams, don't worry about it. A scene just ended. There's a new scene in which the main character is talking to a mountain goat. We know she's dreaming. :)
     
  17. Klogg
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    Klogg Member

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    Readers are smarter than some of us give them credit for. Most of the time you can go into writing thoughts and they will pick that up pretty quickly. Just don't put them in quotation marks as that would indicate audible speech. But please, for the love of God, don't use the phrase, "thought to himself". You can think and you can talk to yourself, but not think to yourself. "Thought to himself" is somewhat redundant. Of course you're thinking to yourself. Who else would you be thinking to? Your neighbor?

    There is a lot of debate and skepticism about the use of italics to show a characters thoughts. I think you can do it if it's done right and very carefully. It is a fine line to walk and you must be picky about what you will allow in italics. I wrote a short story once about a psychologist that has gone crazy. A large portion of the dialogue in the story was internal, the MC's reactions to different events. All this internal dialogue was done in italics. Though a few readers did view the italics as unnecessary or jarring, they were in the minority and the concept was generally well received.

    Consider italics to be the equivalent of a voiceover or narrator in a movie. No, the narrator is not always entirely necessary, but sometimes they add a different level to the story.
     
  18. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    Italics for unspoken dialogue is not standard format, and could get you landed in the rejection pile reguardless of how good the writing is. (I only recently learned this since joining this site :))

    I had always assumed it was standard to use italics this way, since a lot of the books I read use it. This is not necessarily how the author wrote it in the original manuscript though.
     
  19. DisFanJen
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    DisFanJen Member

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    I must admit this leaves me in two minds.

    I've never used italics for thoughts and where possible I always put it into the narrative. However when it is a direct thought, as in your internal voice I always used single quotes. E.G:

    "What the hell is that?" would be a spoken phrase.
    'What the hell?' would be an internal monologue.

    Based on what you're saying here that would be wrong also? Because whenever I've seen direct thoughts written as straight narrative, especially in 3rd person, it just doesn't read correctly to me.
     
  20. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    Not completely sure, but I'm thinking using single quotes for unspoken thoughts is not the way to go.

    Once my eyes were opened (so to speak) about this topic, I went through and edited a lot of my novel where I had used italics. And I'm a sucker for unspoken dialogue, so I had-- and still have-- a lot of editing to do. :eek:

    I'm using the writing itself to make it clear where a character is directly thinking something without anything more than an occasional "he/she thought" and sometimes nothing at all. And I have to say, my writing has gotten better because of it. I think.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    single quotation marks are only used for a quote within a quote [unless you're following british rules, in which the double goes inside, the single outside]... there is no other acceptable use for single quotation marks in prose, though there is in certain formal disciplines such as theology and linguistics...
     

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