How do you deal with thoughts?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
User avatar
sarahdee
Posts: 140
Joined: June 29th, 2010, 9:48 pm
Contact:

How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by sarahdee » January 4th, 2011, 9:12 pm

I mean literally. What's the correct way to write them, if there is one.

I have always used speech marks:
"Oh my god," thought Marion looking at him in dismay.

But I'm reading something at the moment where all the thoughts are just in italics:
She looked at him in dismay.
Oh my god

Aimée
Posts: 296
Joined: December 9th, 2009, 1:26 pm
Location: Michigan
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Aimée » January 4th, 2011, 9:17 pm

It depends on the point of view. I use italics usually, but if I'm using an omniscient perspective following only one character, then I pretty much write the thoughts as normal sentences, like in first person. When I read thoughts in quotations, I get confused as to whether they are speaking or thinking, so I prefer italics.

Guardian
Posts: 563
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Location: Somewhere between two realms
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Guardian » January 4th, 2011, 9:32 pm

I believe italics is the correct form (At least as I learned and as I use it nowadays).
Oh my god, thought Marion looking at him in dismay.

But I also saw thoughts on this way (But maybe this is inappropriate in English literature. In my native language, this approach is accepted.)...
'Oh my god,' thought Marion looking at him in dismay.

And this one is surely inappropriate...
"Oh my god," thought Marion looking at him in dismay.
... as the "s are reserved for dialogues.

So personally I would say, use italics where you want to present thoughts. But maybe someone else is going to tell you otherwise.

User avatar
Watcher55
Posts: 741
Joined: November 27th, 2010, 8:25 am
Location: Plantser-ville
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Watcher55 » January 4th, 2011, 9:43 pm

I've never seen thoughts put in quotation marks (unless the character was actually having an extremely self-centered conversation). That being said, I hope there's not a rule until the author decides what it is.

I usually just include thoughts as a part of the narrative and use transition clues.

Using italics I think is a matter of aesthetics, but multiple pages riddled with italics can be a problem. Personally I only use italics to indicate a change in language (English to Latin).

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by polymath » January 4th, 2011, 9:51 pm

There is no one correct way to indicate thoughts. Some italicize, some traditional methods bracketed with quote marks or apostrophes, some tag with attribution, some use solely free indirect or free direct thought run into standard roman text, paragraph format.

My advice is to follow whatever method is conventionally used in the genre of choice and be consistent. Fantastical uses italics and/or roman text or run in text, not very clear cut in any case. Some mystery and romance do too. It's even less clear cut in other genres.

The general trend of late has been toward no formatting emphasis or set off of thoughts, some attribution, generally using context to indicate thought.

An example of a writer's self-imposed and consistently applied guidelines for expressly indicating thought.
Tag indirect thought, i.e., He thought it was a Chinese missile, not a sky writer's contrail flaring in the setting sun. ("He thought" is the tag.)
Tagged direct thought, i.e., The sun rose too early for late night partiers, he thought. (Attribution tagged like dialogue.)
Italics for free direct thought, i.e., Oh no he didn't go just there. The son of a slimy skink.

Free meaning untagged. Tagged meaning with he said or she thought and so on. Direct meaning without narrator mediation, except attribution tags which are narrator mediation. Indirect meaning with narrator mediation. Dialogue can be direct speech with the speaker mediating indirect thought. "Marcie thought I was going to the dance with her. She didn't know I'd already asked Carolyn." Note the tagging of thoughts "Marcie thought" and "She didn't know."
Spread the love of written word.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Margo » January 4th, 2011, 11:52 pm

I prefer italics, both as a reader and as a writer. However, finding italicized thoughts on every page gets old realllllly quickly, so I'd say use it sparingly. I will generally save it for exclamations or thoughts I want to emphasize a HECK of a lot. The rest of the time the character will just say what she's thinking (i.e. The dress was so tight it looked like she was wearing a sausage casing) or I use 'she/he/I thought' (I thought the dress made her look like an overstuffed sausage).
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

stephmcgee
Posts: 210
Joined: August 16th, 2010, 12:44 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by stephmcgee » January 4th, 2011, 11:57 pm

I use italics. If you're consistent in how you set off the internal thought/monologue, you'll give your reader a visual cue so they'll know what they're dealing with as they go and don't get caught up on the how of what's being communicated.

User avatar
slavandria
Posts: 33
Joined: March 14th, 2010, 9:40 am
Location: Florida
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by slavandria » January 6th, 2011, 7:30 pm

I use italics if it's internal thought like Now, where did I place my book?

I try to stay away from saying 'he thought' because that's a sort of telling to me. I'd rather the reader be inside my character's head.

I guess it really doesn't matter as long as you remain consistent throughout the book and never combine the two, i.e. Now where did I place my book?, he thought. Oh, and I would never place quotes around a thought as thoughts aren't spoken. Save quotes for dialogue.

Oh, and research agents before you send your ms. A friend of mine had her manuscript rejected by an agent because she used italics in her ms. The agent was quite rude in the rejection letter and told my friend she should do her investigation of guidelines before submitting, that it was known she didn't accept anything with italics. My friend wanted to write back to say she did her due diligence and the use of italics was never mentioned in the agent's submission guidelines, but she didn't. Instead, she did some deeper research and came across an obscure interview with this agent where she said 'no italics, please'. Kind of makes you scratch your head, huh? :-)

jen

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com

Emily J
Posts: 250
Joined: March 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Emily J » January 6th, 2011, 7:42 pm

I use italics in my own writing. I find it easier that quotation marks and visually sets it apart more. I have a manuscript where two characters have telepathic discussions sometimes while having a verbal discussion. The italics really helped clarify things so I would recommend them. I think they are an acceptable way to write thoughts though I don't think there is necessary one way set in stone. You could always try different methods and see which works best for you.

Down the well
Posts: 516
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 3:22 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Down the well » January 6th, 2011, 8:14 pm

I'm reading Jane Eyre and noticed Bronte uses quotation marks to set off the thoughts of her character. It struck me as a little odd, but then it occurred to me that it was probably the convention at the time (1847). Perhaps even because of typesetting limitations? I don't know, but I'm decidedly in favor of italics.

And a pox on any agent that would reject for using italics, I thought before hitting submit.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by polymath » January 6th, 2011, 8:16 pm

I think I could fairly well guess what genres any given writer reads and writes in by their thought handling comfort zone.

Not given yet, my self-imposed guidelines for handling thought.
Italics only for prescriptive uses: publication titles, vessel names, nonstandard foreign language terms--not in an English language dictionary--variables letters in mathematical equations, words and phrases used as words--like the term thought--for taxonomic genus and species, for legal case cites, for short false document citations, long citations block indented, and several other prescriptive uses for special cases. though not all come up in any given narrative.

Avoid tagged thoughts of the thought variety. Use context as much as necessitated to set up transitions into indirect and direct thoughts.

  Ray Bubba put the boat repair problem in his brain box and rattled it around awhile. The thwart board needed to be a might longer than the one he stole. About a half a thumb width longer. Stupid jackleg dit-dots cutting up his wood afore anyone practical needed 'em cut.

There's this editor's tool called a style sheet. Upon it an editor lists the standards by which consistency is preserved. Like reference resources referred to, Webster's 11th Collegiate, Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, Cousin Seamus' Nautical Dialect, handling of optional styles, formal or downstyle, i.e., serial comma A, B, and C, optional capitalizations and abbreviations and word compounding and hyphenation, the president, but President Dinkus, US, FBI, anymore (adv), any more (adj), follow-up (noun, adj), follow up (verb), and so on including how italics and other special formatting and punctuation are used.

It's a best practice for a writer too to establish a style sheet for self-imposed guidelines.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
sarahdee
Posts: 140
Joined: June 29th, 2010, 9:48 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by sarahdee » January 6th, 2011, 8:38 pm

Thanks for the replies. It seems Italics are the way to go. I originally used italics and then someone said to avoid them as much as possible as they are hard to read, so reverted to speech marks but back to italics.
And a pox on any agent that would reject for using italics, I thought before hitting submit.

Hehe! Yeah, any agent who rejects work because of a disagreement in how to handle one small price of dialogue should be struck down and sent to agent hell (which i imagine would be filled with query stalkers throwing terrible writing at them).
Avoid tagged thoughts of the thought variety. Use context as much as necessitated to set up transitions into indirect and direct thoughts.
Good advice in general. I've been trying (and not sure until I hit my beta readers with it if its working) a comedic page with two characters having a conversation and the third's thoughts being added in so as a one off I have maybe half to one page using thoughts more than I ever would normally.

"What a great idea," said Jack.
"Yeah that's awesome," said Jo.
Idiots, thought Marion

Emily J
Posts: 250
Joined: March 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Emily J » January 6th, 2011, 8:40 pm

Down the well wrote: And a pox on any agent that would reject for using italics, I thought before hitting submit.
LOL! This made me laugh. But yeah, if an agent is going to be that unreasonable and anal-retentive would you really want to work with him? Hells no.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by polymath » January 6th, 2011, 9:07 pm

I interpret an agent rejecting a manuscript with discretionary italics as responding to the marketplace as she sees it or at least as she represents writers to publishers. It filters out a whole lot of writers who have aesthetics in genres she probably prefers not to represent and probably doesn't have connections in the genres where discretionary italics are prevalent.

Frankly, I believe italicizing thoughts is in danger of becoming deprecated at large and perhaps in a generation or two as obsolete as bracketing thoughts with quote marks.

Down the well is correct that typesetting limitations minimized the quantity of italics on any given press run at bookmakers' print shops. And thus quote marks bracketed thoughts set in roman text as a substitution. Italics was a whole other case of lead type to buy for each and every book typeface. A printer could purchase a smaller quantity of italics faces to meet basic needs rather than buy a whole case. The small quantity option came along with a roman case. The italics matrices were shipped and stored in small partitions beneath their roman counterparts.

The trend toward minimizing italics and letting the context do the work for thoughts began because technological limitations drove it. Though now with digital typesetting so convenient and no limitations on matrix quantities, a majority consensus is trending toward not going back. The consensus opinion is that doing away with discretionary italics fosters stronger writing.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
cheekychook
Posts: 685
Joined: May 26th, 2010, 8:35 pm
Contact:

Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by cheekychook » January 7th, 2011, 9:09 pm

As a reader I appreciate seeing internal thoughts in italics---it makes it really clear that it's an internal thought and it doesn't jar me out of the story.

I use italics for my characters' internal thoughts in my book, BUT I always make sure the whole thing reads okay and is still clear even if I take out the italics because I know they may not always show up when I email people copies and I figure if it reads fine without the italics then I haven't "used" italics to do any of my "work", I'm just using them as a style choice. Because of that I'd have a real issue with being rejected based on the use of something that is a stylistic option and could easily be deleted/altered. Agents who have rules like that are probably not agents I'd want to work with in the first place.
Image
http://www.karenstivali.com

Passionate Plume 1st Place Winner 2012 - ALWAYS YOU
Published with Ellora's Cave, Turquoise Morning Press & Samhain Publishing

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 6 guests