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Question About Third Person and Thinking

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by VanClash, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. VanClash

    VanClash Scribe

    So when writing in third person, I came across a situation I wasn't too sure how to deal with. When I'm expressing what my characters thinking as a question, should it be written as:

    "What am I doing here, he thought."

    "What am I doing here? He thought."

    "What am I doing here, he thought?"

    They all seem incorrect one way or another to me.

  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    To my knowledge, it's "What am I doing here? he thought." You treat thoughts like dialogue, only without quotation marks. The tag isn't a new sentence, so it wouldn't be capitalized; the thought is a question, so it gets a question mark, and not the tag.
  3. Gecks

    Gecks Scribe

    The second 2 look a bit odd to me so I'd go with your first one, out of the options you posted. However, I also think Ireth's suggestion looks 'normal' to me. I think either your first one, or Ireth's would look fine.
  4. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

    Ireth is correct. Treat direct thoughts as dialogue, except write them in italics instead of inside quotation marks.
  5. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    I've seen people argue this point quite a bit on here. Italics or non-italics - personal preference, right? I'm not 100% on that. But be consistent on what you choose.
  6. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    When you use the tag, italics are not needed. In most structures, italics aren't needed. Of course, some publishing houses or authors have prefernces.

    Check out published novels, with publishers/genres you're interested in and see how they accomplished it.
  7. Mara Edgerton

    Mara Edgerton Troubadour

    I don't use 'he thought.' I type the thought without fanfare or introduction. So, for example:

    He skidded to a halt halfway down the alley. Damn. What was he doing here?

    No idea if that's right, wrong or otherwise, but it works for me. :cool:
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    A number of editors and readers don't like italics, thinking they are amateurish. I don't agree and I don't mind either way, but personally I don't use them whether I include tags or not. They're not really necessary.
  9. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    I'll second Mara's approach. My favorite author uses italics. Although I love his writing, I don't see a need for it 95% of the time. When a character goes into actual internal monologue for a page or two, I think it may be necessary to use italics.
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I used to use italics as well until I was repeatedly told they were a mark of an amateur. After that I moved away from them to a method like Mara showed above.

    As I look back on that decision, I question the idea that they're amateurish. Like others have said, I don't mind them when I'm reading, so they shouldn't bother me writing. However, I've gotten used to embedding the thoughts within prose. So, that's just the way I do it now.

    Golden rule: If it works...it works.
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    My thoughts?

    "What am I doing here?" he whispered to the empty forest before him. (character talking to himself)

    Wht was he doing there? The old man's directions were cryptic at best. Didn't he know better than to follow the rantings of a sot? (Deep POV, where you stick to third limited but take away the narrator.)

    And just about then, he was asking himself what he was doing in a nighttime forest alone... (using third limited or omniscient with a narrator.)

    The darkening forest and emergence of eerie nighttime sounds caused him to wonder what he was even doing there. (narrator tell, but also a possibility.)

    Well this is great, he thought, picking through the dense undergrowth. What am I doing here? (I use this a lot, but it's less effective than striving for deep POV.)

    Hope I've helped come up with some ideas.
    Mara Edgerton likes this.
  12. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

    Since when?

    That's real question: At what point did someone arbitrarily decide that italics for whatever use are 'amateurish'? Was it the rise of the Internet, where a lot of sites cannot use italics anyway? Or is it something else?
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Actually it goes back quite a ways. If anything, it seems to have become more accepted recently. I was told by one editor that since the Chicago Manual of Style does not cite italics as a proper way to convey internal monologue, many just assume that someone who uses them just doesn't know the right way. Others have described it as a crutch to prop up weak writing where italics are needed to call out thoughts. Not saying I agree in either case but those are two explanations I've seen.
  14. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I agree with Caged Maiden. Unless your hero is in a place or time (and temperance) to keep his mouth shut or can't risk whispering, then do internal thoughts by italics and inner thoughts. If not then have him hiss under his breath, into his cup of soda or to the dark room.
  15. teacup

    teacup Auror

    I actually much prefer italics, in reading, at least. While reading The Hobbit I kept mistaking Bilbo's thoughts for his speech, which made it quite confusing at times. Yes, it said "he thought" but I had been reading italics for a while and so the sight of speech marks just made me think of speech.

    But Ireth is right, "What am I doing here? he thought" is right. Otherwise you could use italics with or without tags or use a deep pov like some have mentioned before.
  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I don't mind reading italics for thoughts, but I avoid them in writing. They just bug me stylistically, just as a personal choice. I tend to write very deep POV, so when I do have a character thinking, it comes out looking like this.

  17. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I dislike reading italics. I think it looks amateurish, personally, but then, I don't use them and am biased. I prefer "he thought" or just writing "What was he doing there?" Both of those help a reader into the POV without attracting attention to italics. Also, when a writer uses italics, like this:

    Fin crossed the street and picked up the slipper. What is this? A slipper sitting in the middle of the road? He put it into his backpack.

    I find it actually jars me from the POV. I'd prefer to read:

    Fin crossed the street and picked up the slipper. What was a slipper doing, sitting in the middle of the road? He put it into his backpack.

    The second example doesn't rely on italics, yet gives the exact same meaning to the scene. I could easily attach "he thought" if I felt it necessary, but this is an example of creating deep POV, eliminating distance from between the written words and the reader.

    Each writer will develop their own voice, tone, and style, of course, but I tend to feel like italics are not only not necessary, but actually stick out as a detracting element in stories. So if anyone is looking for a way to eliminate them, my last post should help by giving several examples of ways to cut out the italics. Many sites don't register italics (critters.org, for example). It would be TEDIOUS to have to reformat every single italicized line if posting up there.
  18. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    I don't care whether it's italics or not.

    I do care if it's not consistent.
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    My feeling here is that italics is typography/layout and not writing. I feel the text should stand on what the words say, not on how they look.

    I think using italics for thought is fairly well recognized though and if you do it people will get it. Some may be annoyed and find it amateurish, but they'll know what's going on and why you're doing it.
    A comparison could be to someone using bold in dialogue to indicate that a character was shouting. The principle is the same (OK, similar), but you'd probably react to it a lot more strongly that if someone used italics for thought.

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