Italics for thoughts?

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

  1. datahound2u

    datahound2u Member

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    That was quite interesting, @jannert - I have never seen that before. Yet the author used that unorthodox method very nicely. As you said, it worked.
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure why he does it, but he does. Maybe because the dialogue is presented more sharply, more viscerally this way? I don't know. But he's a best-selling author (The Committments is probably his most famous book that was adapted into a film) but he's won major prizes as well. It just annoys the heck out of me when people insist that there is a right way and a wrong way to present a piece of fiction.

    Incidentally, Roddy Doyle uses 'telling' to present thoughts. Like so (same scene) : I couldn't move. I was too big for my desk again. I was stuck. Trapped.
     
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  3. Komposten

    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've come across that style of dialogue writing every now and then. I'm currently reading a couple of short story collections (both from the same author) where this style is used, this is the style I was originally taught in school, a friend of mine makes use of it, etc. etc. So it's not unique, just another format. :) And another way to show that there aren't many absolutes in writing.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    You were originally taught this at school? That's very interesting. I wonder if Roddy Doyle's experience was the same, when he was at school.
     
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  5. Lewdog

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    "I think there ought to be some serious discussion by smart people, really smart people, about whether or not proliferation of things like The Smoking Gun and TMZ and YouTube and the whole celebrity culture is healthy."

    -Stephen King

    And it makes me wonder, where did I park my car?
     
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  6. BrianIff

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

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    Don't worry, buddy...

    "Life is like a wheel. Sooner or later, it always comes around to where you started again."

    -Stephen King
     
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  7. Samuel Lighton

    Samuel Lighton Senior Member

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    I use italics to signify alternate forms of communication, otherwise everything is followed up with 'they thought' or some variation. This way I can spend more time focusing on content filled sentences where the reader learns to know why and what italics means in my dialogue. I know many will say that it's only a few extra words, but in a dialogue heavy section it could equal as much as 20-50 words of fluff. Essentially, I use italics to reduce my word count for the sake of using more meaningful word. It's not flair or style, it's efficient.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    'They thought' and other similar tags are very often unnecessary, and IMO can essentially always be written away. The choice doesn't have to be between tags and italics.
     
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  9. Samuel Lighton

    Samuel Lighton Senior Member

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    Yes, but for the sake of clarity I'd rather use italics, for example in a current WIP I have a machine who talks completely differently to how it thinks, people talking to each other telepathically (That is to say without speech, so I couldn't justify speech marks) and via ear bud radio systems, so for me it seemed to serve my purposes in distinguishing both presence and how they communicate with each other.

    Edit: also, the only character with first person perspective is the machine, with the rest in third person. So the machine gets italic quotes for it's thoughts because of the significant difference in it's mannerisms, and the rest get, sparing, descriptions of their thoughts on insignificant matters, but adds to the readers opinion about their character's morality and mindset. Ultimately though, I found it saved me extra words in explanation in some cases, and I don't particularly like to spend extra words explaining such things.


    Is there a better alternative when both real speech and alternative speech is happening within the same line or sentence?
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
  10. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is one of the places I think italics are much better than thought tags. I find it annoying when the story is in first person and you can't tell what was spoken and what was thought which can make a big difference in the scene. Thought and dialogue tags can really interrupt the flow when a narrator is switching back and forth in a passage.

    And as much as it's been asserted in this thread that all you need are better writing skills, that's bullocks.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You see this sort of thing most often in science fiction and fantasy, where alternate communications like telepathy, magic, technological means, and the like are more prevalent. In those genres, use of italics to distinguish the two is not only acceptable, it seems to be commonly used. So if you're publishing in one of those genres, I wouldn't give a second thought to using italics.

    I've also seen such speech set off with a dash, or (in one book I am currently reading) presented as bold text rather than normal text, or set off in a different font, etc. Whatever works.
     
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  12. Witchymama

    Witchymama Active Member

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    Should I post?
    Wavering back and forth in her mind, her hands poised over the keyboard, Witchymama threw caution to the wind.
    "I read ALL 41 pages!" she triumphantly announced.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Witchymama - As the English would say ...I'll put the kettle on. :)
     
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  14. Witchymama

    Witchymama Active Member

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    I've got popcorn.:supercheeky:
     
  15. Sileas

    Sileas Member

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    I use italics for thoughts, especially if it's a direct statement. This tends to NOT be an entire paragraph--the odd statement here and there.
     
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  16. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You have my pity.

    :D
     
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  17. Witchymama

    Witchymama Active Member

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    @minstrel, not at all. I actually was quite entertained and educated on quite a few things. Namely that we writers are certainly a passionate bunch.
     
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  18. Owen Gaines

    Owen Gaines New Member

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    Joe Abercrombie uses italics for thoughts throughout his First Law series. It's rarely more than a sentence or two. A wonderful reading experience. With his work, I much prefer the italics over an added "he thought." I think I feel that way because the power of Ambercrombie's writing for me is his pithy wit. I think the additional words would subtract from this. Academically approved formatting just doesn't mean as much to me as the experience he's giving me.

    One challenging aspect with the approach is an audiobook. I've read the First Law series twice and also listened to the audiobooks. I love Steven Pacey's reading, and he does a great job handling the thoughts by using more of a whisper.
     
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  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    But that's not always, or even usually, the choice. Quite often, there's no need for italics OR a thought tag.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    And sometimes they help distinguish between narration and direct thought. ;)
     
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  21. outsider

    outsider Contributor Contributor

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    Another (ahem) fairly well known Irish writer by the name of Joyce also presents dialogue in this way.
     
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  22. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Joyce

    He is...a great guy.

    ...
    Italics always look terrible on the crit page:

    Three lunar moons orbited the horizon. Zack trod the red soil.

    Where to go, where be the message of head spectra? Another step...
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
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  23. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Custom Title. Contributor

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    I'm considering making a character that uses food for thoughts.

    "Steve had a bologna sandwich today... hope he starts feeling better soon."
     
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  24. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Gaah. The Thread That Wouldn't Die is resurrected once again, redundantly tormenting us with redundant redundancies ...
     
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  25. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Custom Title. Contributor

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    We're going to talk about this again and you're going to like it!
     
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