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Thread: Character thoughts (italics? quotes? underlines?)

  1. #26
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    But I don't remember actually telling other writers what not to do. I gave my reasons as to why I don't like or use them and then showed the way in which I, myself, write thoughts. I see lots of advice on this forum that I wouldn't follow either, but that is my personal choice too, is it not

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    (to adtabb and Samantha's Song) - I appreciate as how eyesight problems influence your stance re italics, I'm not exactly 20/20 myself, but (and without trying to sound snarky or anything) advising other writers not to use italics because this affects you personally, doesn't quite seem right...

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  2. #27
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Meh, I couldn't even see straight to shoot myself in the foot

    If I were told by an agent etc., that it had to be set out that way, then it would have to be done so, I wouldn't argue the point because I don't like them myself. I might be blonde, but I ain't that stupid

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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    To others: forgive all perceived snark as me and SS are friends offsite as well. One takes liberties with friends.

    To SS: It seems more than a tad self-defeating to refuse to use one particular tool because it doesn't suit you and is industry standard.

    Say for instance you sent a manuscript to a publisher and they had trouble working out which words were speech and which were thoughts? How to separate thoughts from speech? Simple. Italicise them (or underline in manuscript format, as is standard). If you refuse to do this, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

  3. #28
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    I only use italics ( in third limited, my usual POV ) if it's a direct 'I' thought. If you're in someone's POV, then it isn't necessary to use italics or quotes. You're in that POV, it is their thoughts. I never use quotes.

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  4. #29
    All Living is Local Don's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    To others: forgive all perceived snark as me and SS are friends offsite as well. One takes liberties with friends.

    To SS: It seems more than a tad self-defeating to refuse to use one particular tool because it doesn't suit you and is industry standard.

    Say for instance you sent a manuscript to a publisher and they had trouble working out which words were speech and which were thoughts? How to separate thoughts from speech? Simple. Italicise them (or underline in manuscript format, as is standard). If you refuse to do this, you're shooting yourself in the foot.
    I think if your publisher is having trouble working out which words are speech and which are thoughts, the thing to do would be to examine the manuscript and correct the problem, rather than simply deciding to use some typesetter's convention to correct your prose.

    "Hey, Johnny, the entry to the third chapter seems stilted to me. I don't buy your character's motivation. It seems the prose could use some work."

    "Nah, let's see... I know. Put that section in Helvetica 13 pt bold, and the reader won't care that I could have rewritten it to make it clearer."

    I think most of the examples in this thread stand alone without any special formatting and make it plain which are thoughts and which are not.
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  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    I think if your publisher is having trouble working out which words are speech and which are thoughts, the thing to do would be to examine the manuscript and correct the problem, rather than simply deciding to use some typesetter's convention to correct your prose...
    That wouldn't always be the case.

    For example:

    She clicked on new posts and scanned the list to see if thethinker42 had posted anything interesting. No. Well isn't that always the way?

    We don't know if 'No' is a thought or part of the - what would you call it? - exposition?

    She clicked on new posts and scanned the list to see if thethinker42 had posted anything interesting. No. Well isn't that always the way?

    Because the above is italicised, we now know those words are character thoughts, not just the author speaking to the reader.

    Now, if we use quotes around speech and thoughts, it gets confusing:

    "I'm going to send thethinker42 an email telling her she's banned," she said, adding to herself, "And then I shall be Queen of AbsoluteWrite!"

    How do we know the words following 'adding to herself' are thoughts or speech if it's our custom to put quote marks around both? Surely this would be better:

    "I'm going to send thethinker42 an email telling her she's banned," she said, adding to herself, and then I shall be Queen of AbsoluteWrite!

    Plus, of course, if we never use italics we lose the ability to emphasise certain parts of the text and make those words stand out.

  6. #31
    Abnormal Romance Author thethinker42's Avatar
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    Scarletpeaches is off my Christmas card list, thought thethinker42, who also prefers to see character thoughts in quotes.
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  7. #32
    All Living is Local Don's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    That wouldn't always be the case.

    For example:

    She clicked on new posts and scanned the list to see if thethinker42 had posted anything interesting. No. Well isn't that always the way?

    We don't know if 'No' is a thought or part of the - what would you call it? - exposition?

    In this case, does it really matter to the reader which? If it's important enough, tag it.

    She clicked on new posts and scanned the list to see if thethinker42 had posted anything interesting. No. Well isn't that always the way?

    Because the above is italicised, we now know those words are character thoughts, not just the author speaking to the reader.

    If it's really important to differentiate the two, I'd lean toward a tag rather than italics.

    She clicked on new posts and scanned the list to see if thethinker42 had posted anything interesting. No, she thought, but isn't that always the way?

    Now, if we use quotes around speech and thoughts, it gets confusing:

    "I'm going to send thethinker42 an email telling her she's banned," she said, adding to herself, "And then I shall be Queen of AbsoluteWrite!"

    Gah. We agree on this, absolutely. Totally confusing.

    How do we know the words following 'adding to herself' are thoughts or speech if it's our custom to put quote marks around both? Surely this would be better:

    "I'm going to send thethinker42 an email telling her she's banned," she said, adding to herself, and then I shall be Queen of AbsoluteWrite!

    But since it's tagged, it's not really necessary.

    "I'm going to send thethinker42 an email telling her she's banned," she said, adding to herself, and then I shall be Queen of AbsoluteWrite!

    Plus, of course, if we never use italics we lose the ability to emphasise certain parts of the text and make those words stand out.

    Emphasis is one place I can see italics as necessary, but it could easily become a crutch as well. If you need emphasis, are you sure you have the right word, and shouldn't use a stronger one?
    Quoting all this text that was in italics kind of ruins the effect, but the differences still come through clearly where tags were used.
    Quote Originally Posted by thethinker42 View Post
    Scarletpeaches is off my Christmas card list, thought thethinker42, who also prefers to see character thoughts in quotes.
    I don't see that as any easier to read than this:

    Scarletpeaches is off my Christmas card list, thought thethinker42, who also prefers to see character thoughts in quotes.

    I find italics, underlines, bolding, and other typesetter techniques distracting when I read. Anything the author can do to keep me in the scene is doing me a favor as a reader. YMMV.

    Thanks for the discussion. I always figured it would be interesting to get ganged up on by the two of you.
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    the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. ~Frederic Bastiat
    Economics puts parameters on people’s utopias. ~Peter Boettke
    The 'social contract' is to the politician what 'original sin' is to the priest. ~Don
    The vision of the helpful and protective state is the most pervasive and counter-productive ideology in the world today. ~Don

    I tend to blame the Feds for Don, actually.
    If they'd get it right, we wouldn't need Don pointing out that they'd gotten it wrong.
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  8. #33
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    Thanks for the discussion. I always figured it would be interesting to get ganged up on by the two of you.

  9. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    I find italics, underlines, bolding, and other typesetter techniques distracting when I read. Anything the author can do to keep me in the scene is doing me a favor as a reader. YMMV.
    I find excessive thought tagging obnoxious, which is why I like it when there needs to be no tags. Tagging thoughts does not always flow well.

    I will find too much italics distracting, but since it's usually very clear what they mean I see them and think, "oh, character thoughts," as opposed to, "oh, wth is this?" Or rather, I don't think anything, since it's implicitly understood. I don't need to think. I personally don't think it's distracting so much as a part of writing. I've read a ton of books with italics. Only ever bothered me in large chunks.

    Clearly this is not something universal. I suppose the only consensus would be that there is no consensus.
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  10. #35
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    Don, you said to tag thoughts/dialogue if the meaning was unclear but this isn't something I'd do. Italics are like the word 'said' to most people - invisible. I'd rather italicise than stick in a conspicuous tag because the majority of readers would know it signifies thought as opposed to speech, and italics are definitely less noticeable than thought- or dialogue-tags.

  11. #36
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Wouldn't that depend on how much thinking your character is doing?

    Because a book with 20% italics is gonna be annoying to read. I'd definitely notice that!




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  12. #37
    All Living is Local Don's Avatar
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    I agree it's one of those 'no concensus' areas. That's why I added the YMMV in my post. I tend toward finding other ways to express internal dialog, anyway, so it's not a big issue for me. If I ever find myself in the middle of an introspective WIP, it will probably become more of an issue for me.

    ETA: IdiotsRUs and I are on the same wavelength.
    I wrote a blog.
    Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference - the one takes account of the visible effect;
    the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. ~Frederic Bastiat
    Economics puts parameters on people’s utopias. ~Peter Boettke
    The 'social contract' is to the politician what 'original sin' is to the priest. ~Don
    The vision of the helpful and protective state is the most pervasive and counter-productive ideology in the world today. ~Don

    I tend to blame the Feds for Don, actually.
    If they'd get it right, we wouldn't need Don pointing out that they'd gotten it wrong.
    ~ Medievalist

  13. #38
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Maybe the consensus could be: Do it any way that is not confusing ( so no using quotes - it'll look like speech) because your editor will change it to the house style anyway




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  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    Wouldn't that depend on how much thinking your character is doing?

    Because a book with 20% italics is gonna be annoying to read. I'd definitely notice that!
    My characters never think.

  15. #40
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    So you don't have to make a decision either way




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  16. #41
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    They are all clearly Mary-Sues.

  17. #42
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Just a reminder, the OP's question was:

    Quote Originally Posted by Diandra View Post
    I was just wondering, do thoughts in characters' minds go inside quotes, or no quotes at all?
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  18. #43
    It's green they say FennelGiraffe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2Wheels View Post
    But that thought stream example is not written in first person - it's a deep third which I don't believe requires any kind of markup.
    Quote Originally Posted by Samantha's_Song View Post
    The initial posting didn't ask about first person. I, personally, don't do first person, I'm leaving that for my memoirs
    This might need clarification for some people.

    There's a difference between directly quoted thoughts and indirectly reported thoughts. We make the same distinction in dialog:
    Indirect: Jeremy said he didn't like fruitcake.
    Direct:
    Jeremy said, "I don't like fruitcake."
    With internal thought:
    Indirect: Melissa gazed at the picture and thought she would never spend that kind of money for a few squiggles of paint.
    Direct: Melissa gazed at the picture. I'd never spend that kind of money for a few squiggles of paint.
    I think that's the use of first person 2Wheels was talking about. Even if the overall work is third person, directly quoted thoughts can only be third person when the character is thinking about someone else. When people think about themselves, they use either first or second person. (Unless you have a character with a very strange psychological condition!)

    What you do get, though, are thoughts where no person at all is specified:
    Direct: Melissa gazed at the picture. That's absurd. Overpriced, too.
    Back to the original question: I usually italicize directly quoted thoughts, but I keep it brief and infrequent. More than a single line of italics IS hard to read. Sometimes, when I'm using a very deep penetrating third, I don't mark them at all. But I never, ever put them in quotes.
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  19. #44
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    When I first started writing, I used to use direct thoughts; to me, if the person talks dialogue in direct, then why change to indirect for internal dialogue... Not that I knew they were called direct/indirect at the time though.
    My characters do a whole lot of thinking and I changed it all into indirect for some reason, but I'm wondering why I did this now anyway? Some thoughts don't come across with the same impact in indirect as to what they would in direct.

    Quote Originally Posted by FennelGiraffe View Post
    With internal thought:
    Indirect: Melissa gazed at the picture and thought she would never spend that kind of money for a few squiggles of paint.
    Direct: Melissa gazed at the picture. I'd never spend that kind of money for a few squiggles of paint.
    I think that's the use of first person 2Wheels was talking about. Even if the overall work is third person, directly quoted thoughts can only be third person when the character is thinking about someone else. When people think about themselves, they use either first or second person. (Unless you have a character with a very strange psychological condition!)

    What you do get, though, are thoughts where no person at all is specified:
    Direct: Melissa gazed at the picture. That's absurd. Overpriced, too.

  20. #45
    Knight Errant brad_b's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with Giraffe here, and Samantha. (can I do that?) The use of internal thoughts/dialogue should be used sparingly if italics are used. I use italics for thoughts when a character uses internal dialogue. If the character is merely thinking something I usually tag it so or word it in such a way that it's a given. I've seen italics used in dialogue sometimes to differentiate between speakers and wasn't impressed with the style. There's always the exception to the rule.

    Example:

    "My psychiatrist says I have a split personality."

    No he doesn't.

    "Yes he does."

    That's on the extreme side since the person could be thinking or saying it out loud, but I trust you get the drift. I've also seen thoughts shown by using apostrophes, mostly in the older classics, probably before they had such things as italics. Once again it's personal preference, though industry standard wins out in the end. Hopefully the submission guidelines will tell how a publisher prefers formatting. The important aspect is not to lose or confuse the reader. As said before, consistency is the key.
    Last edited by brad_b; 12-25-2008 at 12:17 PM.
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  21. #46
    practical experience, FTW jmascia's Avatar
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    I am currently writing something where character thoughts are incredibly important. I struggled with distinguishing the characters' internal thoughts from the rest of the writing. I decided to go with the italics, which as Makai and others have mentioned, is pretty standard. But, it really does work.
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  22. #47
    practical experience, FTW veronie's Avatar
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    I like to use this: .o0(put thought here)
    =P

  23. #48
    Quiet Normally, Loud when Provoked adtabb's Avatar
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    While reading one of my favorite authors (has published about 100 books, among various other things), last night I found one whole paragraph of character thought. Only the word "I" near the end was in italics.

  24. #49
    give it to me straight Brandt's Avatar
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    I am in the quotes would be confusing camp. I haven't found the need so far in 1st person to use anything for thought. A long italicized passage seems wrong also. I don't have much experience so I'm wondering is this subjective or are there standards about this?

  25. #50
    practical experience, FTW Lil's Avatar
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    Personally, I would go for italics, but it really isn't something to get all bent out of shape about. Choose one method and be consistent. Then when you sell the book, the publisher will impose the house style on it.

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