How do you deal with thoughts?

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sierramcconnell
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by sierramcconnell » January 8th, 2011, 10:15 am

I tend to dislike italic use for thought. It's the proper form, but I would rather be in the character's head than having them internalogging. For some reason it just reminds me of a grade school book.

OMG, what is she wearing today, Becky thought, that would make her butt look so big?

It's just...so simplistic looking. Instead of putting it in a paragraph that flows.

---

As Becky looked up from the book she was currently ruminating over, she saw Patrice enter the library wearing a green floral top and yellow skirt. It was the sort of disaster she had only seen in movies and read about in fashion Do's and Don'ts columns. It made Becky wonder just what had possessed Patrice to try and make herself look like so much roadkill before the entire Student Council. With a snap of the book, Becky quickly marched over to her friend and dragged her to the corner of the library.

---

You see, I like that much better. You get into the head, you get detail to where they're at, and what they're doing. Instead of a crappy one liner. I've never liked italic thought.

Of course, I've always been a fan of more rather than less. It's probably why my book ended up so long and will never get finished! :3
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polymath
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by polymath » January 8th, 2011, 11:09 am

Those are exceptional comparative examples, serriamcconnell, of how context dispenses with a need for italics. Of note, the term "ruminating" is a volitional thought verb (cognition) that sets up for favoring Becky's viewpoint over the narrator's.

The first example favors the narrator's viewpoint from the direct thought attribution tag "Becky thought," making the sentence more of a recitation account than an imitation account.

I much prefer the second example because the narrator takes the time to develop the scene from Becky's viewpoint closest in time, place, and person to the evolving events. Much, much closer narrative distance.

Though neither example patently requires italics, the first example expressly signals a thought from the first word, before a reader reaches the thought attribution tag, which serves to detail who's thinking similar to a dialogue attribution tag's purpose and is almost as invisible as a said tag.

But I'm an old-school printer who thinks italics are a pain in the backside. Okay. The shop did have a linotype. Because it cast hot lead slugs from a mold case the supply of italics glyphs was relatively unlimited. But taking down a twenty-pound roman case from the machine's overhead magazine and changing it out with an italics case for one pointless word in one slug and putting the roman case back again to finish the line, and repeating that maneuver every other line or so was a royal nuisance. So paint me heavily biased and call it subjective.
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Down the well » January 8th, 2011, 12:38 pm

polymath wrote:So paint me heavily biased and call it subjective.
Ha. Literally, in your case. :P


I tend not to be an absolutist. Sometimes italicized thoughts are great, sometimes they can be overdone. This short passage from American Gods by Neil Gaiman sort of demonstrates both the good and bad of using italics and the accompanying "thought" tag.

"Shadow lay in bed, thinking, This is my first bed as a free man, and the thought gave him less pleasure than he had imagined that it would. He left the drapes open, watched the lights of the cars and of the fast food joints through the window glass, comforted to know there was another world out there, one he could walk to anytime he wanted."

"Shadow could have been in his bed at home, he thought, in the apartment that he had shared with Laura -- in the bed that he had shared with Laura. But the thought of being there without her, surrounded by her things, her scent, her life, was simply too painful..."

Don't go there, thought Shadow. He decided to think about something else. He thought about coin tricks."


I like the use of the italics in the first sentence. It gets us in Shadow's headspace quickly and intimately. But then as the scene goes on it gets to be too much, in my opinion. Too much "thought." Of course, Neil Gaiman has probably sold millions of copies of American Gods, and I'm still a querying aspirant, so what do I know...

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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by polymath » January 8th, 2011, 12:52 pm

Astute observations, Down the well.

The passages do what I believe Gaiman's intent is, getting into Shadow's headspace, Shadow's viewpoint, with direct and indirect and tagged and free and roman and italics thought. And I agree the tagging doesn't let the narrator fade out of the scene, keeping narrative distance somewhat more open than purely close on Shadow's headspace.
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by sierramcconnell » January 8th, 2011, 1:41 pm

Down the well wrote:I like the use of the italics in the first sentence. It gets us in Shadow's headspace quickly and intimately. But then as the scene goes on it gets to be too much, in my opinion. Too much "thought." Of course, Neil Gaiman has probably sold millions of copies of American Gods, and I'm still a querying aspirant, so what do I know...
GOD. I dragged through that book. It was so LOOOOONG. And cliche. And easily figured out. I mean...it was so obvious.

And yet everyone praises it. Whhhyyyyy...?!
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by Down the well » January 8th, 2011, 2:50 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:GOD. I dragged through that book. It was so LOOOOONG. And cliche. And easily figured out. I mean...it was so obvious.

And yet everyone praises it. Whhhyyyyy...?!
Well, I thought it dragged on a bit long in places too, but I didn't really find it cliche (I probably don't read enough of the genre to know). IMO, Gaiman has a crazy, creative, unique voice that comes through in his writing, though the above passage probably isn't his finest. I enjoyed American Gods, but it's not my favorite Gaiman novel. I liked Stardust very much. Coraline was okay. Neverwhere is still in my TBR pile.

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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by wordranger » January 8th, 2011, 10:48 pm

Personally, I use italics when my character is thinking something in his head like a sentence.

Wordranger started writing the post, but then hesitated. Here I go again, giving advice and I’m not even published, she thought. What am I doing? She knew she wasn’t an expert, and had no credentials so to speak, but she did use thoughts in her own writing. Why not give my two cents, too. Who knows? It may help. She smiled, and began typing away.

What I usually do, is put a “she thought” after the first one, just in case the reader doesn’t pick up on it… after that, I just use the italics.
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by D. G. Hudson » January 14th, 2011, 1:27 pm

I use italics as many others have said. I have no problem with italics on a page, but usually limit the usage so the reader is clear on who's speaking. It works well with the omnipotent POV.

The method you choose should fit the type of book or genre. OR you could develop a new technique depending on the story you tell. Be willing to stretch your perceptions. I'm a reader who likes to get in the head of the characters, so all the subtle underlying tension becomes apparent.

Use what you think suits the story.
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Re: How do you deal with thoughts?

Post by shadow » January 14th, 2011, 2:09 pm

I have NEVER seen thought in speech marks. That's why they are called SPEECH marks. Always in italics. That's the rules I suppose, but you can not italicize and break the rules. Your choice, just not speech marks.
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