1. Clockwork Knight
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    Clockwork Knight New Member

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    Writing Character Thoughts

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Clockwork Knight, Feb 17, 2009.

    I was wondering, how do you write your character's thoughts?
    I've seen all kinds of methods.

    Mine is to italicize them, and use them as a sort of character commentary on what is happening. The deeper and more complex thoughts get explained in paragraphs.
    I think this works fine, but someone editing my work thinks otherwise. And, as she has been a creative writing teacher longer than I've been able to write, I feel I should give her advice some thought.

    Does this method seem confusing to you?
    And, problems aside, how do you explain your character's thoughts? It's really pretty interesting to know, what with all the variety. In the same vein, how do you handle mental communication between said characters? I just bold and italicize the "guest" in the character's mind. Again, it's interesting to know how other writers do things.
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    I used to use the italic method. but i found it looked silly and my writing felt somehow wrong... cant explain that very well. Now i've found that you shouldn't need to use italics at all, or even the tags 'george thought.' Because of point of view, my characters thoughts are intergrated through the narration. Sometimes i'm bold and even switch to first person. It all depends on the the penitration of my characters POV.

    Hope that made sense.

    RM
     
  3. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quoting a previous thread (Responded by Cogito)

    The thread -

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=15880&highlight=Italics
     
  4. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thread on "Italics with thought - http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=4740&highlight=Italics

    (Answered in above thread)





    And another

    Answered in this thread - http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=4481&highlight=Italics
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've seen it italicized at the start of a story, where it's set off as a diary entry or something about it is unique and the writer's trying to distinguish it from the narrative that follows it. But as a reader I'm always distracted by it. I end up looking back at it to understand what's different or why the author did that.

    I never italicize internal monologue because almost all the time I write in first-person narrative, so the writing is already one big internal monologue with dialogue mixed in.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Italicising MAY be preferred by a particular publisher. However, it is not standard, and you should never, ever, depend on a typesetting convention to indicate that it is literal thought (internal dialogue).

    It should, therefore, be written in plain text, as detailed more fully in my blog article He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue. However, I would (and do) use a named format style in MS Word (or other word processing software) to mark all such dialogue. That way, if your publisher prefers italicized internal dialogue, you can create a copy of your manuscript formatted that way within seconds.

    For writing and reviewing purposes, always leave the internal dialogue as plain text. If the result is confusing, it means the writing needs to be clearer.
     
  7. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I just integrate the thoughts in with the narrative. It's always obvious which character's point of view I'm writing.

    "Frank leaned his head around the corner. The redhead was there again. Why did she keep coming back? He would have to find out."
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I just use italics. Whether it's one character's private thoughts or two or more characters talking telepathically. Just italics, nothing else special. If two characters are talking mentally I just separate it into paragraphs like regular dialogue, except in italics and without quotes. And I don't use thoughts for any special meaning or reason like "commenting on what's happening," I just use them to show what the characters in question are thinking, same as dialogue or narrative or whatever. I don't have to "explain" their thoughts because their thoughts pretty much explain themselves, so I'm not sure what you mean by that.

    You'll get lots of heated opinions on how right or wrong this method (and other methods) are but the plain truth is, there's no absolute right or wrong in depicting character thoughts. If somebody tells you it's the standard to use italics, or if somebody tells you it's unprofessional to use them, or if somebody says you shouldn't even use character thoughts at all but should integrate it all into the narrative, you should just go with your own judgement because I've seen thoughts indicated in all sorts of ways in published works--in quotes, in italics, not set off from the text at all, etc. There is no right or wrong, just personal preference.

    The important thing is to find what works for you and to be consistent.
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I use italics too.

    Everyone I admire (and so I have followed suit) use italics for just two things. To emphasise certain words or to indicate thought and nothing else.
     
  10. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    This thread reminds me of the thread asking about naming your chapters or just writing 'one, two, three, four'.

    It's one of those things that, if you can make it understandable, really does not matter how you do it.

    For example, the book I am reading now writes the chapters like this:

    Chapter the Ninteenth [their spelling, not mine]

    <------------- --------------> [this is actually a picture]

    In Which Uttrik, Being Interviewed, Is Found to be Satisfactory, and, In the course of a Meal, Aids Tazendra in Acquiring a Lackey



    Different than anything I have heretofore seen, yet; interesting.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's always a good idea to follow standards if you want to be taken seriously by publishers.
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Once again, I wholeheartedly disagree. It has been proven time and time again that competence and clarity outweighs trivial orthodoxy.

    S'far as I've seen.
     
  13. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I completely disagree with you...

    Publisher's have formatting and style methods that they want and if you don't adhere to them...you are going to be the one who suffers. Don't think it bothers them if your masterpiece doesn't get off the slush pile...
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    So where do these 'masterpieces' come from that DO get published?
     
  15. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    from following guidelines

    that's what they're for...case closed.
     
  16. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    If your doing things like poetry or if there's some special reason why you might not follow the standards...maybe. But otherwise I think it wise to follow the standards. Publishers and Editors have a keen eye for these things if you want to get it published eventually.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what nonsense!... proven by whom/what?... and far as you've seen where?... fyi, competence and clarity just about always go hand in hand with following the standards of the writing form in question...
     
  18. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Everywhere. If you have never read a book (or haven't read many, many books) where they do things in diverse ways, then you have not read enough.

    All I'm saying is that if there is a universal standard, and everything else is frowned upon, then why are there so many books that do NOT follow this 'standard'?

    I think that it is a valid, reasonable question that deserves a respectful answer.
     
  19. JGraham
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    JGraham Senior Member

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    I have to agree with some of you on this issue. As long as it makes sense and is clear, i feel any style will work. It is good to be unique, as long as it is still understandable.
     
  20. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    I think we should close this thread.

    Right about now... before it implodes.
     
  21. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are those that know the rules because their expeirenced it for years, and those that just ant to speculate.
     
  22. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    It's sad that we have to stop debates, arguments, or trivial disagreements by shutting down threads, because some people are so easily threatened.

    I am fine with being wrong, as a matter of fact; I admit it.

    I'm wrong.

    I hope everyone's ego is sufficiently sated.
     
  23. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Look. King italicizes the majority of his character's thoughts.

    I'll trust King over any of these board members.
     
  24. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    i don't use italics any more; i used to but then i read some people on the site talking about why it shouldn't be done and it swayed me to see things their way.

    it's not that i have anything against individual style, on the contrary. since i don't think i have what it takes to get published (and never will) i don't have to think about stuff like writing to a publisher in an acceptable form.

    i do however believe that using italics is wrong for inspiring writers to do as it takes away some of the challenge of writing. being able to write; thoughts, actions, dialogue and anything else you feel like writing using nothing but words sharpens your skills and helps you acquire new ones.

    Imho it's fine to use anything you feel like to write (so long as you aren't looking for it to be published) but make *sure* you are able to write it without that crutch.

    Now if no one minds i want to rent off topic for a bit.

    The reason many threads with volatile components in them are closed is because this is a very diverse community, some of us have very little in common other then wanting to write.

    The moderators have the tiresome job keeping this community together and schisms, arguments and other things like that are counter productive to a sense of community.

    If a discussion will lead to hurt fillings on someone's side, then it's they're job to nip it at the bud. (thanks for that btw)

    Yes in a perfect world everyone will remember this is just the internet, but not everyone will and not everyone is "fine with being wrong" and will go to ridicules lengths to prove them right.

    On the other hand
    I do think this is something to say to a moderator on a p.m; not on the thread itself.

    p.s

    A little more about style versus conformity:

    Terry prachet, author of discworld has written over 40 novels in his life, most of them didn't even have chapters.

    However when he began wrriting his YA novels the editors inssisted on chapters and the way he choose to do them was this:

    "Chapter name

    In Which Uttrik, Being Interviewed, Is Found to be Satisfactory, and, In the course of a Meal, Aids Tazendra in Acquiring a Lac"

    just going to show you that even a man with a definite style sometimes has to bend over to the publishers demands, but can do so with style.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'll trust the Chicago Manual of Style. I've looked there, as well as several other respected style guides, on this very issue.

    Not a single one of them endorses the use of italics for internal dialogue. Only the CMS goes into any detail about internal dialogue at all, and it does, in fact, discuss different approaches. Italics is not one of them.

    Not one of them, when discussing the use of italics in writing, lists internal dialogue (by any name) as a legitimate use of italics.

    I have given my own reasons why you should avoid that nonstandard practice, as well as how you can hedge your bet. Mammamai, who has a great deal of experience, as also stated that the use of italics for literal thoughts is incorrect.

    The majority of the arguments in favor of it boil down to, "Well, xxx has done it, and his[her] writing sells."

    I've seen that same argument used for many truly horrible writing practices.My position is this: However it ultimately appears in print, what matters is the clarity of the writing. And because, with the standards as the currently exist, it is very likely that the italics will not appear in the final product, your writing had better not depend on typography to convey its message clearly.
     

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