Author Topic: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?  (Read 7871 times)

Offline ma100

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2014, 04:44:42 AM »
But in turn, wouldn't that give more passive voice? :-\

Off to read Nick's blog.

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2014, 05:01:11 AM »
But Nick, isn't your example entirely narration? Wouldn't inner thoughts be

No reply. Has he heard me? (I thought)

And

I realized with a sickening lurch why Jim hadn't answered. Shit. How am I going to talk my way out of this one?


???
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Offline Nick

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2014, 05:33:57 AM »
Quote
But in turn, wouldn't that give more passive voice?

That's not passive voice, Ma. Just past tense.

Quote
But Nick, isn't your example entirely narration? Wouldn't inner thoughts be

No reply. Has he heard me? (I thought)

And

I realized with a sickening lurch why Jim hadn't answered. Shit. How am I going to talk my way out of this one?

I'm not entirely sure I understand your query, Matt. Most novels are, of course, written in the past tense, but that doesn't make them all narration. The same applies with thoughts.

Your examples sound unnatural to me. I just don't understand why you would want to switch to present tense for thoughts. I can just about accept that, very occasionally, you might want do this for special emphasis, but doing it regularly looks (and sounds) wrong to me. If your narrative is constantly switching between past and present tense, you will simply end up confusing the reader.








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Offline ma100

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2014, 05:42:43 AM »
Maybe not in your example but in one of mine it would. ::)

If I'm going to die, I'm going to take that smarmy git with me.

Drew thought if he was going to die, he was going to take the smarmy git with him.

JewelAS53

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2014, 06:24:38 AM »
I opened the door. All was eerily silent, but at the end of the hall, behind a closed door, I could see a dim, flickering light. "Jim, are you in there?" No reply. Had he heard me? I raised my voice and tried again. "Jim, is that you?" Suddenly the door crashed open, and I realized with a sickening lurch why Jim hadn't answered. Shit. How was I going to talk my way out of this one?

Quote from: Matt Walker
No reply. Has he heard me? (I thought)

And

I realized with a sickening lurch why Jim hadn't answered. Shit. How am I going to talk my way out of this one?
I think we need to credit our readers with more nouse than we do.
I like to think my grammar is pretty reasonable.
 ;) ;D

Given both options above, from Nick and Matt - both work. And to me are seamless.
I had to have a good look at the two to notice the difference. Which tells me, it really doesn't matter.
Except, perhaps, that whichever way you choose to do it, do it the same way throughout the work.

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2014, 06:44:29 AM »
I think either is fine, but I feel the tense swap could be confusing on occasion.

'She couldn't believe it was happening.' is past tense narration. But thoughts are like speech said internally and are written in present:

'I can't believe this is happening! I thought.' rather than 'I couldn't believe this was happening! I thought.'

When you have 'I thought' after it's obvious. However without the tag there is the potential for confusion:

I felt my skin go hot and start to crawl. I knew it was too good to be true. I can't believe this is happening!
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Offline Nick

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #21 on: June 30, 2014, 06:47:36 AM »
Maybe not in your example but in one of mine it would. ::)

If I'm going to die, I'm going to take that smarmy git with me.

Drew thought if he was going to die, he was going to take the smarmy git with him.

That still isn't passive voice, though. Passive voice is when you turn the object of a sentence into its subject, e.g. The explanation was given by Jill (active voice: Jill explained).

Your example looks a bit like authorial narration to me, though. If you were writing it in Drew's viewpoint, it could be:

Drew winced at the sudden sharp pain, and saw his foe's lip curl in contempt. That made up his mind - if he was going to die, he was going to take that smarmy git with him.

OR

Drew winced at the sudden pain, and saw his foe's lip curl in contempt. Dammit, he thought. If I'm going to die, I'm going to take that smarmy git with me. (present tense, but no need for italics)

To me, really, this debate is all about viewpoint. If you handle this correctly, you shouldn't need italics for thoughts.

Quote
Given both options above, from Nick and Matt - both work. And to me are seamless.
I had to have a good look at the two to notice the difference. Which tells me, it really doesn't matter.
Except, perhaps, that whichever way you choose to do it, do it the same way throughout the work.

Thanks, Julie. Personally I am still very dubious about switching to present tense for thoughts all the time (unless you are using present tense narration, of course). As in the example above, I guess it can sometimes work, though. And I remain implacably opposed to italics for thoughts!
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Offline Nick

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #22 on: June 30, 2014, 06:53:30 AM »
Quote
I felt my skin go hot and start to crawl. I knew it was too good to be true. I can't believe this is happening!

I agree this doesn't work, but in my view it's because of the jarring change to present tense in the last sentence. In past tense it works a little better:

I felt my skin go hot and start to crawl. I knew it was too good to be true. I couldn't believe this was happening!

Of course, it's a weak final sentence. I'd be tempted to change it to something like:

I felt my skin go hot and start to crawl. I knew it was too good to be true. I'd been deceived, and the consequences were about to make themselves apparent.
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JewelAS53

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #23 on: June 30, 2014, 06:54:20 AM »
I don't like italics to denote thinking. A page of italics is really hard to read - like sometimes, a chapter will be devoted to a character's dream or navel gazing, and it's all italicised. I often skip those pages. A page peppered with italics looks awful and is also hard to read.

Readers are not idiots. If the PoV writing is strong and clear, the thoughts become obvious. I take about 3 pages to get into the writer's style. I cannot imagine I am that different a reader that everyone else stumbles over which I sail?

Offline ma100

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #24 on: June 30, 2014, 06:57:04 AM »
Then you end up with a load of he thought. To me that's telling the reader he's thinking.

 You know me and the right term, I always get bit wrong. :-[  ::)

It is Drew's viewpoint.


Drew sat as upright as possible, adrenalin pumping through his veins. If I'm going to die I'm going to take that smarmy git with me.

So what am I doing wrong, please? :-[
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 06:58:39 AM by ma100 »

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #25 on: June 30, 2014, 07:10:48 AM »
Ma, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, other than I'd put the thought in a new paragraph.

Nick, your example is fine but you've turned the internal thought into narration, haven't you?! If you look through any novel for the tag 'he thought', the preceding thought is  always written in present tense?!
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Offline Nick

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #26 on: June 30, 2014, 07:13:39 AM »
Quote
Drew sat as upright as possible, adrenalin pumping through his veins. If I'm going to die I'm going to take that smarmy git with me.

So what am I doing wrong, please?

Possibly we're in danger of going around in circles here. There is nothing really wrong with your example, except for the sudden switch to present tense and the fact that it's in italics. To me, it looks and reads clunkily.

Personally I would do it more like this:

Drew sat as upright as possible, adrenalin pumping through his veins. If he was going to die, he decided, he was going to take that smarmy git with him.

OR

Drew sat as upright as possible, adrenalin pumping through his veins. Dammit, he thought. If I'm going to die I'm going to take that smarmy git with me.

If you're going to switch to present tense for his thoughts, I think you need to telegraph it so that the reader knows what to expect. Otherwise, italics or no, the sudden switch to present tense is simply too jarring.

That's what I think anyway :)
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Offline Nick

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2014, 07:24:15 AM »
Ma, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, other than I'd put the thought in a new paragraph.

Nick, your example is fine but you've turned the internal thought into narration, haven't you?! If you look through any novel for the tag 'he thought', the preceding thought is  always written in present tense?!

Maybe we need to agree to differ about this, Matt. But no, it's not the case that a preceding thought is always in the present tense. You could have a sentence such as, It's time to say goodbye, he thought, or you could write it, It was time to say goodbye, he thought. It all depends on the context and the viewpoint you are using.

Actually I did have a look at a couple of popular novels to see if I could find examples, but on a quick leaf-through I couldn't find any with a 'he thought' or 'she thought' in. I guess it's something authors try to avoid if possible, as this is getting into the area of telling rather than showing.

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Offline 510bhan

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #28 on: June 30, 2014, 01:12:23 PM »
I think your's is fine ,Ma --  with or without italicisation.

This is part of one of mine . . . no italics, mixed tenses and only Allanagh in scene: ??? Nobody who has read it has had a problem with it.

     Already past midnight, Uriel still needed work. She wrangled with the uncooperative animation while the laptop burned her thighs. Yeah, right, Uriel. Just. And I just need a job, just need a life, just need . . . aargh! 
     She slammed the lid shut. Pixels and sprites – bloody murder. Give me pen and paper any day. Slumped over, she rubbed her temples and released her ponytail. Nimbly, her fingers twanged the scrunchie back and forth as she plucked long brown strands from its fabric. Eurgh. For a moment she closed her eyes, in hope it might relieve their dry scratchiness.  :-[ :-\


Offline Dawn

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Re: Internalized thoughts—when to use italics?
« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2014, 02:30:29 PM »
Ma, I think yours works well, Sio's also. I'm not quite getting why this is complicated though that could be me.

This is one of mine

The caller insisted there was a body. Her regulation heels sunk in the quagmire. ‘Great.’ Katherine scanned the embankment then glanced at her watch. ‘Are you sure this is the place, Mckay?’

‘Yes, Ma’am.’ McKay sidled down the embankment and joined the others.

I could be at home unpacking that mountain of boxes. She glanced at her watch.
Time to take it serious and get the job done