1. Itachi1

    Itachi1 New Member

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    Writing inner thoughts

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Itachi1, Oct 27, 2016.

    Hi All,

    I am writing my first story and I am having some difficulties about how to set up the inner thoughts of the character.

    I have wrote what is happening and then added her inner thoughts in italics, but I have added this on the same line, should I be starting this on a new line.

    I will leave an example below;

    Listening to the sounds of passing cars, rushing buses and busy mothers with their children, she half smiled to herself knowing that people hated this weather. They should move somewhere warmer, it’s October in Britain what do you expect.

    How is this?

    Thank you.
     
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  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm finding I prefer first-person narration for this reason – when the entire book is what the character's thinking, you don't need to set any given thought apart from any other with any kind of text formatting – but even in my third-person stories, I've felt that using the character's internal thoughts at the same time as the authorial description was more comfortable than trying to separate them:

    Was this the best opening he could come up with? June was already disappointed.​
     
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  3. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Is your question on how to do inner thoughts (like italicized first-person or narrated as in Simpson's example), or are you asking how to format the first-person italicized thoughts?

    I've read books that treated thoughts like dialogue and put them on a new line, but I've also read books that put thoughts in the middle of a paragraph. Neither stood out to me as awkward or difficult save for one method: non-italicized first-person thoughts in a third-person book. These tend to have "he/she thought" placed at the end of the thought, so you don't even know the thought's started until you reach the "I" or the "he thought." It can be very confusing if the thought has a different perspective than the rest of the paragraph, especially since nearly every time I read these they're in the middle of a paragraph. It tends to be very jarring, I do not like non-italicized first-person thoughts because of this.

    As a writer, I tend to use first-person italicized thoughts to show a shift in the person's feelings, thoughts, or perspective, so naturally it works best to start a new paragraph with them. With narrated thoughts I just do what feels right for that scene/paragraph. I've always written with first-person italicized thoughts and narrated thoughts, but with my newest book (attempt--I haven't actually finished one yet), I challenged myself to stick with just narrated thoughts and it's been an interesting learning experience.

    Hope at least some of that made sense!

    P.S. Might I suggest that when you first introduce the italicized thoughts, you actually put "she thought/mused/etc"? That way you won't run into the problem of a reader unfamiliar with italicized thoughts getting confused.
     
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm writing first person narration and I still interject inner monologue that's separate from the narration. You can do it either way, just saying.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The italics are optional. I also dislike them, but that's discussed at sufficient length in the pinned thread that this thread will probably be added to. :)

    If this is close third person, you can just leave the inner monologue alone--no quotes, no italics, no "she thought". However, whether you use italics or not, there's no need to start the inner thoughts on a new line.

    Edited to add: I agree to some extent with the previous post that first person inner thought without tags or italics is...well, not bad, but a delicate matter to handle without being jarring. Often the thoughts work just fine in third person. Often, as with your example, you don't have to choose between first or third person.
     
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  6. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I tend to agree with @Simpson17866 here. My own WIP is third-person perspective, but I stick super close to my MC so her thoughts are interwoven into the exposition, most of the time without specific identifiers.

    Ex: The air had grown cold enough to form fleeting ghosts of the warm breath they exhaled. Piper shivered. Why couldn't they find somewhere warmer to wait?​

    Or, if I do separate it from the rest of the narration, I don't italicize and instead just add a dialogue tag at the end. Like:

    Why can't we find somewhere warmer to wait, she thought.​

    That's just my personal prefrence though. I use italics for telepathic communication in my story, so I don't want to confuse it with private thoughts.

    That said, I've seen it done with italics in many, many, many printed works so obviously it is an acceptable form. I don't know that it matters whether it is a new line or a separate line.
     
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  7. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Your second example is the way I don't like thoughts being handled. I completely forgot to mention that the books I've read that have it are written in the past tense, while the thoughts are in present, and that adds to the jarring I feel when reading these types of thoughts. Now that I think about it, the few times an author started a new paragraph with the thoughts instead of injecting them into the current paragraph weren't very jarring (does this sentence make sense? I can't tell . . .). Just goes to show there's a right way and a wrong way to do just about anything with writing.
     
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  8. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    That is true, I hadn't considered that. I don't have many instances of the second example in my novel because I much prefer the first. And perhaps the subconscious reason for my preference is that -- while I've never thought of it consciously until you pointed it out -- I find it irritating to break the tenses in anything other than actual dialogue. In fact, now you've got me curious. I'm going to do a quick scan-through of my draft and see how I handled this. If I have anything like my hasty example above, I'm changing it right now.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read the rest of this thread (yet.) However, if the italicised thought is a direct one (if your third person POV character is thinking it about herself and another) she would not be saying to herself : They should move somewhere warmer (watch the comma splice here). It's October. What do you expect?

    Instead, she would be saying to herself : We should move somewhere warmer. It's October, in Britain. What did we expect?

    I am a fan of italicised direct thoughts, because they make it very clear that the shift is happening. In your example, however, these are not direct thoughts, so there is no need for any italics (or another line.) A direct thought is the exact wording of what the person is thinking to themselves. You wouldn't think of yourself and another person as 'they,' would you? You'd think of yourself and another person as 'we.'

    You'd think of yourself as "I," instead of "She" as well, although this doesn't come up in your example.

    (The 'you' complicates your example, because it's a generalised saying ...'what do you expect?' It's not directly addressing somebody directly as 'you.' I'd need to think about that one. It seems awkward, but it's not actually wrong.)

    In your second example (the one with Piper in it) there is nothing wrong with either way you wrote it.

    That's fine. It's obvious that Piper is thinking this, if Piper is the POV character. You don't really need the 'she thought' tag, unless it makes something else clear within the context of that part of the story. However, this is an indirect thought. Piper would not be saying to herself "Why couldn't they find somewhere warmer to wait?"

    Instead, Piper would say to herself: Why can't we find somewhere warmer to wait? Or: Can't we find somewhere warmer to wait?

    I think your main issue here isn't whether or not to use italics for thoughts—or another line, which probably isn't necessary in any case—it's identifying the nature of the thought.

    A direct thought will be couched in exactly the same words the character would use when talking to herself. I can't do this. This is a direct thought, and can be presented in italics, for clarity.
    She couldn't do this. This is an indirect thought, and is no different from the rest of the third person narration, so there is no need to set it aside in any way. As long as this is the POV character's thought, it should be clear enough without any other additions.
    In a direct thought, the third person character states exactly what she is thinking. An indirect thought is when the author reveals, in general terms, what the third person character is thinking.

    If you write in first person, the conventions are slightly different.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
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