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Italics for thoughts?

Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Victorian girl, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. BrianIff

    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    If you start the quote of thought with a tag, what's the communication issue?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My issue in this particular waking moment of this thread is Jack's post, which I referred to a few minutes ago (probably after you started writing your post above) that seems to discourage a poster from doing any of his/her own research and decisionmaking on this issue.

    I also have an issue with what appears to be a belief that if you don't use italics you have to use either quotes or thought tags, when you don't.

    Both of those things seem, to me, to steer writers away from even being aware of the most common way that non-italicized thoughts are communicated.
     
  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You claimed it was specifically in a citation I posted. I wanted it clear it was not something I recommended.

    I went back as far as page 35 in the thread. The only reference I made to "cluttering conventions" was in response to your use of the term in post #962. I was pointing out that you were using framing intended to disparage italicized thoughts.


    And you think any of us said otherwise?
     
  4. Jack Asher

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    That was never my point. I pointed to the hundreds of books that do use them. Gaiman, Moore, King, MacCaffery, Pratchett, Adams, Eddings some of this must seem familiar to you.

    Your restraint is admirable, too bad you did it anyway with that sentence.


    Yes, because doing research on a subject that no agent considers, or requires in their submissions, is lunacy.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I very much dislike italics for thoughts, I also don't like quotes for them. Yes, in theory the thought tag would make things clear, but in practice people skip over tags, and they are likely to see the quote as spoken.

    Also, one of my issues with italicized thoughts is a suspension of disbelief issue: I don't belive that people think in clear, clean words all that often. I think that they think in fuzzier ways. The clear, clean words in both italicized and quoted thoughts are equally offensive to me when considered in that light.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was referring to quotes and thought tags as "cluttering converntions". I said that tags were cluttering. You said that they're not as cluttering as tags.

    Jane: "Sugar is bad for you!"
    Fred: "It's not as bad for you as sugar!"
    Jane: "Huh?"

    Edited: To further clarify, I quote myself:

    The statement in red refers to the listed items in red.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015
  7. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There wouldn't be one, but then you are saying every time you use quotes you need a tag to designate spoken or unspoken. Seems like it would require excessive tags for the reader to keep it straight. If you limit quotes only to spoken dialogue you don't have that problem.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you feel that discussing any writing issue that is not present in agents' written submission criteria is lunacy, OK. I feel that that would make for a pretty narrow discussion.
     
  9. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    Weirdly, I tend to write internal thoughts and all that in such a way that quotation marks are, thankfully, not needed. Younger me spent a lot of time reading up on conventions and how to do things 'by-the-book', until one day I was feeling tired and couldn't decide whether to use a hyphen or a bracket and I just gave it all up. I obviously didn't become Cormac McCarthy, and a lot of the old rules stuck with me, but one of my favourite internal speech mechanisms is that of Death in Discworld.

    Often it is stated that the words appear in a persons head without them having travelled the distances in-between. Small Caps are used for him, and I think it works brilliantly. It isn't a convention I've seen elsewhere - Stephen King occasionally bold and capitalises random things key to the plot but thats about it - but it works.
     
  10. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is interesting. I would think then that your issue is with the inner dialogue itself, not with the convention used to convey that's what it is.

    Here's an example from my novel:
    “Calm down, Brin. Think it through.” I stared at the place I’d set my trap, the empty place. “There is—” an explanation. I stopped talking aloud and glanced around in all directions.​
    Surely if one were talking aloud to oneself one would continue such a thought as a clear clean sentence.

    It's hard for me to imagine people wouldn't think in clear clean sentences.I'm certainly doing it now as I write this post.
     
  11. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Then I apologize for misreading your post.
     
  12. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    It massively depends on stimuli though. Right now you might be focusing on your reply with no other distractions around you; a familiar room and computer make things a bit more automatic on the intake. However, if I'm walking down the street I might have three to twenty different thoughts by the time I've responded to a person asking me the time or returning pleasantries. There are also major and minor thoughts, where a person may think about two totally separate topics concurrently, and yet they wouldnt overlap, they would just take it in turns to take centre-stage.
     
  13. BrianIff

    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I'm not an experienced fiction writer but, to me, context would make clear whether something's a thought or not, and that in parts that leave ambiguity the writer ought to rewrite it till its clear. Kinda like an implicit promise from the author. But that's only for thoughts which are verbal, which I experience more often than ChickenFreak mentioned. But thanks for bringing up the hazards, both of you.
     
  14. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You should listen to a few audio books and see if you can always tell what is spoken aloud, only thought and what is narration. Context is not always enough.
     
  15. BrianIff

    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I can see how that's no small issue in the market, but an audio book of what I intend to write is so far out of the horizon....
     
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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is certainly a matter of opinion, and I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong, either in the actual reality, or in the choice of the method of communicating that reality. By which I mean that even if I had absolute proof that people generally don't think in clean clear sentences, I could see a writer choosing to write as if they do, because writing is a translation of reality, not an absolute recreation of it.

    But I really don't think that we think in those clean clear sentences, out in real life. Here and now, writing these posts, you are probably much closer to it, because you're dealing with concepts expressed in words, and you're planning the words that you're going to type.

    But if I were, say, cooking, I think that my thoughts would be more like:

    Chicken. (Image of meat drawer.) (Wordless concern about whether it's expired.) [Action of going to meat drawer and reading chicken package.] December 27...OK. (Wordless concern about freshness anyway.) (Mental olfactory memory of what chicken-gone-bad smells like.) [Action of ripping open package to sniff.] Wow. Going bad early. (Irritation, mental image of complaining to grocery.)


    and so on, and so on. Edited to clarify: I of course wouldn't write the mess above. But I wouldn't translate it to literal thought, either.

    For me, your example would have just as much meaning, and I would feel more, not less, close to your character, if the italics were removed. No other change--no tag, no quote, just removed. You're in first person, so that "explanation" thought is clearly yours. It would be in close third as well.

    Actually, I would be fine with your example if it were all thoughts, no spoken words, and you just removed the quotes and the italics--and maybe moved the action to the beginning:

    I stared at the place I’d set my trap, the empty place. Calm down, Brin. Think it through. There is an explanation. I glanced around in all directions.

    That's one example of what I mean by no need for quotes, no need for italics.
     
  17. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But one of the aspects of my character is she talks aloud to herself when she is alone. She doesn't want to be alone and one way she deals with it is to talk to herself. So changing to all narration subtracts a level of story depth.

    And the narration is in past tense, the dialogue and inner monologue are in present tense.
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm not saying eliminate that. I was mostly using the second example as an example of how thoughts could be communicated without any of the three (italics, quotes, tags). If you want the spoken word, you want it, sure.
     
  19. Haze-world

    Haze-world Senior Member Supporter

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    :supershock:Good grief!
    Before joining this forum I had no idea that people could get so emotive about the use of italics!

    I believe the important thing here is for you all to try to agree to disagree, on what to say when you advise people like myself, who are new to writing. I have a huge respect for all of you (sincerely) as you are all knowledgeable and give excellent advice, however it really does not help people like myself if the conversations lose focus like this.

    In the interest of clarity please keep to the point:
    Perhaps it would be better, when replying to new writers, for you all to try and collectively say: That many follow guidelines within, 'The Chigago Manual of Style' and there are those that stray from the guidelines because they are voting with their keyboards for a new way of doing things. The person giving advice can then say what they would do having already acknowledged that it may be controversial.

    This way, all equally valid views are covered and it doesn't confuse, or put new writers off asking future questions for fear of sparking another bickering session and be left none the wiser.
    :supersmile:
     
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  20. Haze-world

    Haze-world Senior Member Supporter

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    Sorry, I still haven't got used to forums and don't know how to tag people yet.
    I am addressing this message to
    Chickenfreak
    Jack Asher
    Cogito
     
  21. Lifeline

    Lifeline Out of the Night Supporter Contributor

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    *nudge* get used to it ;)
    People and writing are different depending on their style. Shouldn't you know that when looking at our differing styles and (sometimes) differing opinions? :supertongue:
     
  22. Haze-world

    Haze-world Senior Member Supporter

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    Haha!:supertongue:
    I am perfectly happy with people getting passionate about italics, in facts its quite nice that they do, but not when it confuses the issue for people who genuinely want to learn.
     
  23. datahound2u

    datahound2u Member

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    Two days ago, I had a question on this very issue. Before creating a new thread, I looked to see if anyone had already asked about using italics for thoughts. That's when I happened upon this thread.

    After reading a lot of the comments on the 40 pages of posts, I find myself to be more confused than I originally was. Thus, I reckon I'll just do it my way and curse myself with hindsight, if needed.
     
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  24. Haze-world

    Haze-world Senior Member Supporter

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    Judging from what was said in the last few pages, me too. It's easy enough to alter afterwards if we need to : )
     
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  25. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here's a direct quote from the novel A Star Called Henry, by prizewinning Irish author Roddy Doyle. It doesn't use italics for thoughts, but look what it does with dialogue. No quote marks at all. And yes, it works. I'm not saying it's my preferred method of presenting dialogue, but he chose to do it this way, and it works.


    She moved and turned like a boat in water. She was facing us. Glaring at us. Two black eyes divided the white beak. Coming at us.

    —Let me see the strange boys.

    And she was in front of us and over us.

    —Do you have a name, the bigger boy?

    —Yeah.

    —Yes, Mother.

    —You’re not my mother.

    —You think I’m going to get angry, don’t you? You think I’m going to lose my temper. Don’t you?

    —No.

    —No, Mother.

    —You’re not my mother.

    Victor coughed.

    —Cover your mouth when you’re coughing, the smaller boy, said the nun who called herself Mother.—We’re all marching towards our eternal rest without needing help from the likes of you. Your name, the bigger boy?

    —Henry Smart, I said.

    —Are you English, with a name like that?

    —No.

    —As far as you are aware. Do you know your father, Henry Smart?

    My father’s leg was under the desk.

    —Yeah, I said.

    ......................

    You really CAN do whatever the hell you like with formatting, when you're writing a novel or short story. Seriously. You can.

    Roddy Doyle published The Committments in 1987—his first novel— using this method of dialogue presentation. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1993.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015

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