Author Topic: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?  (Read 2521 times)

Offline tigger

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Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« on: January 22, 2006, 09:19:33 PM »
Hey guys....

I wrote this a few days ago, to entertain myself. As I was writing, I wondered: Am I treating the quotation that my character has as a 'thought' correctly? If anybody knows the answer to this, please instruct me on this grammatical item.

Thank you...


Offline tigger

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Re: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2006, 09:28:35 PM »
Here is the piece...

No title yet...

:)   

     "Only a few more feet," she told herself. Janis swung open the door to her bedroom and stared at the floor to ceiling windows that showed off the panoramic view. The tension that had been building for two days rose up to greet her. For two days she fought it. Now, as she gazed at the stretch of railing that kept a person from freefalling to the ground, forty-seven stories below,  the temptation to go out onto the balcony was strong, stronger than it had ever been before.

     "Nobody will care," said a voice in her head. "Nobody will even come to identify the body."
She laughed at the thought. But the cackling sound of her laugh made her stop midpoint. "How true," she said aloud.

     Janis moved toward the windows as if in a stupor. Reaching the stain free glass, she placed one fully opened hand above her head. Stretching her other hand, she grabbed for the handle to the balcony door.

     "Could you stand it?" she asked herself. "Or would you scream in terror all the way to the bottom?"

     There was no answer. Only silence. For the first time in what seemed like forever, Janis' mind was still. Caught up in the vortex of the moment, all she could do was look out at the scattered lights dotting the buildings in the distance, and watch them blur from her focus. The pressure in her hand as she gripped the door handle was stark. She could feel her fingernails digging into the skin of her palm. The sensation was insignificant though, obscured by the thought that leaving this world would give many cause to celebrate. But the haze in her mind didn't dull her riveting misery. So many lives would change. So many people would vie for the chance of discovering what it was that made Janis Harding lose all control. So many of her peers would work to take over everything that she had built.
   
     Contemplating that jolting truth sent bitter gall climbing from her stomach into her mouth. Without warning, Janis felt herself heave. She put her hand up to her face, but she was safe. She hadn't eaten in two days. The dryness that scratched her throat, evidence of her emptiness, left her lips to curl in disgust.
   
     "I can't even vomit," she uttered in a hoarse whisper.
   
     Slowly Janis walked toward her ensuite bathroom. As if it were part of a dream, she noticed a ragged bloodstain left beside the light switch as her broken flesh rubbed the wall to turn it on. In the mirror, the face that looked back at her hardly seemed her own. Except for the crisp fabric of her coat, fashioned to fit her every curve like everything else she owned, the reflection that glared back at her hardly seemed recognizable.

     Rich brown hair previously styled was now disheveled. "Did the wind do that?"

     The typically flawless skin of her face was ashen and drawn. The long black lashes that framed her gorgeous big brown eyes were furrowed and dark. Her beautiful rounded lips were colorless and tight. Janis opened her mouth to speak, and as if caught within the twilight of life and death, she heard the voice that came out of her body as though it were spiraling into her ears from a distant tunnel.
   
     "A reflection of my soul, no doubt."

     The words were heavy and hard. She squeezed her eyes shut and then quickly opened them again. Her eyes, already stinging and blurred, felt leaden and chalky. She blinked and blinked again, twice over, taking longer to open her weighted lids each time. The slow motion effort had her trapped in time. She worked her way onto her vanity counter until the tip of her nose was touching the mirrored glass, stopping shy of the place where the steam from her breath would cloud her view. The truth, she knew, was shut into the depths of her blackened pupils. A dull ache filled her heart as her need to understand pounded against her head.

     She slipped down from the vanity and stumbled across the tiles with her stocking feet. The feeling of cold granite, the only reminder that she was alive, made her want to come out of her reverie. But there was a deep, cavernous hole in front of her.
   
     "Too tired to think," she whispered. Then she fell inside.

Offline Nick

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Re: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2006, 10:11:11 AM »
Hi Tigger

I guess by 'thought quotations' you mean whether thoughts should go in inverted commas?

There is no hard-and-fast rule about this, but nowadays the tendency is to avoid using inverted commas for this purpose. The trouble is that they can make the text look cluttered and invite confusion with speech. Furthermore, when a scene is written entirely from the viewpoint of a single character (as in most modern fiction), you could argue that inverted commas for thoughts are superfluous the entire scene is, in effect, the thoughts and perceptions of the viewpoint character.

So my inclination would be to delete the inverted commas in this extract, except where they are clearly being used for spoken words. So (for example) I would rewrite the opening para as follows:

Only a few more feet, she told herself. Janis swung open the door to her bedroom and stared at the floor to ceiling windows that showed off the panoramic view. The tension that had been building for two days rose up to greet her. For two days she fought it. Now, as she gazed at the stretch of railing that kept a person from freefalling to the ground, forty-seven stories below,  the temptation to go out onto the balcony was strong, stronger than it had ever been before.

But there are no strict rules about this. If you feel that inverted commas are preferable, nobody can say that you are definitely wrong. The one line I would have problems with is the one below:

   Rich brown hair previously styled was now disheveled. "Did the wind do that?"

With the inverted commas, this reads oddly to me. The reader wonders who is saying these words. Better to lose the inverted commas here, I think. As long as the scene is clearly portrayed through Janis's eyes, it will be quite clear that this is a thought of Janis's. As the first sentence is also ungrammatical, I would change it to:

   Her rich, brown hair, previously styled, was now disheveled. Had the wind done that?

Hope that helps  :)

Nick GM
Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

Offline tigger

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Re: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2006, 11:52:55 AM »
This is the exact information I wanted. Since a form of communication is taking place, I've had trouble figuring out whether quotation marks are needed. The confusion have been the main source of irritation; but you're right, there is a measure of clutter that comes with the rest. I'll have to make a special effort to work on this, so the thought is better integrated, and distinctly recognizable as thought.   

Thanks Nick. Your comments and help are much appreciated!

:);)

Offline amylake

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Re: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2006, 02:13:38 PM »
Nick's answer to Tigger's question is perfect.  I've also seen a narrator's thoughts represented in italics.  (Dan Brown uses this technique.)

Amy

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Re: Am I treating 'thought quotations' correctly?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2006, 03:09:39 PM »
My publisher puts 'silent speech' in italics (when it is telepathic), but leaves a character's personal thoughts just as Nick has described them. If the character is speaking aloud, even to himself, regular rules of conversation seem to apply.  *laughs* But it does seem to differ a great deal from author to author and publisher to publisher.