Internal thought in third-person

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Ermo
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Internal thought in third-person

Post by Ermo » September 7th, 2010, 2:43 pm

How do you write internal thought in third-person? I feel like there are three options, although I guess there could be more:

1) Add a 'he thought' tag. What an ugly sweater, he thought.
2) Italics. What an ugly sweater.
3) Nothing and let the reader assume. What an ugly sweater.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

craig
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by craig » September 7th, 2010, 2:55 pm

I spent most of my teen years reading Star Trek and they always used the italicized thoughts -- it's what I'm used to and it's what I prefer.

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Mira
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Mira » September 7th, 2010, 3:04 pm

Those three ways seem like the basic. You could also decribe the thinking: He thought about the sweater and decided it was ugly.

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cheekychook
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by cheekychook » September 7th, 2010, 3:21 pm

I've used the italicized internal thoughts throughout my novel (third person, multiple pov). In my opinion, for internal thought, it takes away from the personal nature of the thought to add the words "he thought"---they seem to stick out more than tacking on a "he said" to traditional dialogue.
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Margo » September 7th, 2010, 3:24 pm

I prefer the italics, probably for the reason cheekychook noted, though I hadn't really asked myself before why that would be my preference.
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by dios4vida » September 7th, 2010, 3:32 pm

Yup, I do the italics as well. That way there's no doubt that it's an internal conversation, and it's fun to play around with.

"Do you like my new sweater?" Mary asked.
What an ugly sweater. "Oh, it's just lovely," I replied.
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cheekychook
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by cheekychook » September 7th, 2010, 4:00 pm

dios4vida wrote:Yup, I do the italics as well. That way there's no doubt that it's an internal conversation, and it's fun to play around with.

"Do you like my new sweater?" Mary asked.
What an ugly sweater. "Oh, it's just lovely," I replied.
Exactly---it makes it much easier to insert internal thought in the midst of dialogue (like a character thinking OMG, OMG while in the middle of talking to another character.
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by stephmcgee » September 7th, 2010, 4:14 pm

I use the italics. It's what I'm most used to, both in reading and writing.

Ermo
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Ermo » September 7th, 2010, 4:52 pm

My problem with the italics is sometimes I have longer pieces of internal thought and I think it is harder to read a paragraph of italics.

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cheekychook
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by cheekychook » September 7th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Can you break up that internal thought with some actions or setting (which would be non-italic) and, in doing so, split it into a few paragraphs so there isn't ever a block of italics? Think of it as the way you break up a long monologue of dialogue by interjecting the character's gestures or actions, or the reactions of whoever else is present.
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polymath
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by polymath » September 7th, 2010, 5:34 pm

Indirect tagged thought; He thought it was an ugly sweater.
Direct tagged thought; It's an ugly sweater, he thought.
Free Indirect thought; He hoped the sweater didn't look as ugly on him as it did the manikin.
(Note volitional thought verb "hoped.")
Free direct thought; The sweater looked uglier on the manikin than it did on him.

Italicized thoughts are a best practice when they are direct interior discourse in cognitive perception, i.e., volitional direct thoughts addressed to the self, Oh my, it's a mighty ugly sweater for a swashbuckling hero, he thought; indicate an indirect thought is from a viewpoint character when adjacent non-italicized thoughts are from a narrator; parenthetical asides or thought comments where parentheses brackets are too strong a stop and commas too soft; and/or for special emphasis needed to set off from run-in free indirect thoughts of a perception reaction rather than volitional direct cognition, per se, like when internally expressing irony, understatement, overstatement, exclamation, etc. The italicized example given above sans thought tag covers the latter situations. Regardless, the cultural coding convention trend of late has been toward minimizing italics as much as possible and letting the context speak for itself rather than using formatting shortcuts to provide stage direction meaning.

"Internal thought" is a tautology, while a soliloquy is thought spoken aloud, externally in a dramatic monologue and therefore bracketed with quote marks.
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Jaligard » September 7th, 2010, 6:42 pm

I personally, treat it like dialog, only in italics.

What an ugly sweater can stand alone in the proper context, but may need a dialog tag like, "he thought." Or it can be narrated abstractly, "He tried to imagine an uglier sweater and failed."

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Holly
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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Holly » September 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm

Ermo wrote:How do you write internal thought in third-person? I feel like there are three options, although I guess there could be more:

1) Add a 'he thought' tag. What an ugly sweater, he thought.
2) Italics. What an ugly sweater.
3) Nothing and let the reader assume. What an ugly sweater.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
1) What an ugly sweater, he thought.
2) What an ugly sweater, he thought.
3) What an ugly sweater.
4) He picked up the clothes on the chair. What an ugly sweater. (change the thought to past tense and make it part of the narrative)

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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Aimée » September 7th, 2010, 8:24 pm

It depends on your voice. In one of my WIPs my protagonist is both very cynical and likes to take over the page without claiming the words as his own, thus third person. So I have left that as what an ugly sweater, no tags, no italics. It goes with his voice.

But in my other WIP, which is also third person, I use "he thought" because the voice is much more formal. Formal isn't quite the word, but it's the only word I can think of to fit it right now.

Voice is the biggest part, but ceteris parabis, it's really just personal opinion. Italics bother me. So I don't use them.

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Re: Internal thought in third-person

Post by Quill » September 7th, 2010, 10:59 pm

polymath wrote:Regardless, the cultural coding convention trend of late has been toward minimizing italics as much as possible and letting the context speak for itself rather than using formatting shortcuts to provide stage direction meaning.
Thanks for that, polymath, and thanks, all, for this thread in general. To italicize or not to italicize direct thoughts, that is the question. And I confess, coming from primarily a non-fiction background, in both reading and writing, I wondered, and was not sure, and will be needing to know and decide soon what to do, as my first major fiction work is nearing the polishing stage, and it is rife with thoughts that need to be formatted or not.

A related question on italics: has the old standard of underlining words one wishes to indicate italicized changed enough by now that we can assume our manuscripts can be generally sent out with italics where indicated?

Also, how does italization play into our recent discussion about formatting challenges in pasted-into-email text? I'm speaking of those first few pages we attach to the query. If wonky to the point of losing italics, our prose loses meaning and isn't properly represented, is it. A reason to avoid characters thinking to themselves in the first five pages of our stories? Hmm.

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