1. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Writing a characters thoughts in third person

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dedebird, Jan 21, 2016.

    I'm currently writing a fantasy in third person and because my character is alone a lot of the time she thinks things rather than saying them out loud (because who goes around narrating every thought they have to themselves?). What is grammatically correct for showing the charterers thoughts in third person? My grammar-Nazi husband says generally you italicize them with like a "she thought to herself" excerpt. Here is an example of how I have already written them.
    "Alright then, I'll find my own way out, she decided to herself."
    and
    "Well I suppose in this particular situation I am keen to actually follow the light, she chuckled to herself."
    Is this correct? Or because it is third person should I not show thoughts from my character at all?
     
  2. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    Writing in the 3rd person perspective doesn't mean you can't reveal the thoughts of your character. You're not doing anything wrong by showing their thoughts. That's a good thing, actually, and what a writer might be obligated to do.

    Here's a quick rundown of the two 3rd person perspectives if you're having trouble placing a name on what you're going for:
    - 3rd person omniscient is when the narrator can enter the mind of any character in the work.
    - 3rd person limited is when the narrator can only enter the mind of one character in the work.

    I hope this helps!
     
  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Yeah, you basically wanna treat it like dialogue but in italics instead of quotes. Which also means you don't always have to use dialogue (errr monologue in this case?) tags - just having a line in italics will let your reader know it's a thought without needing a "she thought to herself" after.

    Keep in mind you can also do things like just saying "She supposed in this particular situation she was keen to actually follow the light" rather than always using outright thoughts in italics. Mix it up!
     
  4. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    This is actually super helpful! I believe this story will be 3rd person limited. This seems perfect since originally I was going to write it in first person but HATED the look of it.

    Thank you so much for clarifying this for me! And I'll keep in mind that I should mix it up!
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have to italicize them. If you do, you don't really need the tag "she thought" becuase the italics themselves serve as a tag of sorts to indicate that you're dealing with internal monologue (i.e. thoughts).
     
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  6. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    If she is by herself and doesn't enter dialogue with others much, you could get away with not evening making thoughts italic. Most readers are smart enough to catch on.

    One author I've read, Cormac McCarthy, doesn't even use quotation marks in dialogue! Not that I recommend you do it that drastically, of course.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer to just remain in third person. Actually, that's not true--I prefer a mix of third person, immediately below, and no-identifiable-person-in-the-thought-bits, two examples down.

    She folded her arms and frowned at the book. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Why had she expected it to be in English? As if there aren't other languages in the world?

    She slammed it shut, and winced at the resulting cloud of dust. All right, then, fine. Just fine. (Dammit!) She'd find the way out herself.

    She peered up, and smiled slightly. So, this time she was going to actually follow the light.


    If you insist on italics, you don't need the "thought" part. You certainly don't need the "to herself" part, because if she's alone, who else is she thinking and chuckling to?

    She folded her arms and frowned at the book. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Why did I expect it to be in English? As if there aren't other languages in the world?

    She slammed it shut, and winced at the resulting cloud of dust. All right, then, fine. Just fine. (Dammit!) I'll find the way out myself.

    She peered up, and smiled slightly. So, this time I'm going to actually follow the light.


    The above would work without italics, but it would be more graceful if you rephrased the "I" bits out of it:

    She folded her arms and frowned at the book. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Jane, you idiot. English? Why would it be in English? As if there aren't other languages in the world?

    She slammed it shut, and winced at the resulting cloud of dust. All right, then, fine. Just fine. (Dammit!) So, find the way out. Just get the job done.

    She peered up, and smiled slightly. Follow the light?
     
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  8. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I write in close third person and don't use either.
    Quotation marks should only be used for dialogue, not thoughts. Some people have started using itallics for some reason unknown to me. I just type what needs typed and use a thought tag.

    Here is a website that doesn't look remotely academic or scholarly that just happens to agree with me:
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/dealing-with-a-characters-internal-thoughts/

    If someone can find a better one, I'd like to know the answer from a more reputable source.
     

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