Author Topic: Using 'I thought'  (Read 1460 times)

Lin

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Using 'I thought'
« on: September 11, 2017, 07:12:24 AM »
I now realise that by using 'I thought' when writing in first person past tense, you are not making your character strong enough.  What is best 1 or 2?

1. I thought Ruby deserved better treatment after last night.

2.  Ruby deserved better treatment after last night.

So,  it's a case of not having the 'I thought' , break in the sentence.  It kind of makes the character weaker, almost as if she's not sure in Example 1.

Just a tip, that's all, when editing.  Get closer to your character and make him or her stronger.  Allow them to make more positive statements and decisions.  

I've modified this post because I realised there are a few more redundant phrases you might consider deleting.  They are:  I wondered, I pondered, and I questioned.

Lin



« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 09:36:58 AM by Lin Treadgold - Author »

Offline bailish

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 04:20:28 PM »
I find recent published works omitting 'I thought.'
There are times I still want to put it in, but you're right, Lin. It does make the character sound wishy washy.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2017, 05:30:52 PM »
In a way I understand what you are saying. But I believe there are times when that difference between a bold statement and a pondering thought is needed by the story. I don't think either one will make your character weaker, unless they are used without understanding. Where I have a belief that all words should be there for the story and not for the writer - there are times when words; we as writers, don't think are needed, can be needed by the readers. They don't want to have to presume too much, as a story is an escape.

So my opinion is that both are needed when needed.

 
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 05:33:26 PM by Simple Things »

Jo Bannister

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 03:33:23 AM »
I'm with Simple on this.  Sometimes uncertainty is part of the character and part of the story.  Sometimes what someone thought at one point will prove to be mistaken at another.  You have to have enough control of your work that you can recognise when it's dispensable and when it adds something.

If I was allowed to make a rule, it would be: Stop making generalisations!  All these "Rules" strike me as having appeared on page 2 of a book entitled "How To Be A Best-Selling Author In Three Easy Lessons".  There is no easy way.  It's a craft: you have to learn it.  You have to practise it, refine it, improve it and figure out for yourself what works for your characters in the situation you have set up. 

If it was easy, anyone could do it.  And they can't.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 06:49:54 AM »
Terry Pratchett's dwarvish "blacker than a very black thing', or 'flatter than a very flat thing', are good examples of what Joe and ST are talking about.  On the face of it they are lazy writing, but in glorious reality they remind us that the dwarves, living and working mostly underground, would have a very limited vocabulary of metaphorical allusions compared to the surface dwellers who had a much wider visual input.

There is no easy way.  It's a craft: you have to learn it.  You have to practise it, refine it, improve it and figure out for yourself what works for your characters in the situation you have set up.  

If it was easy, anyone could do it.  And they can't.

And sometimes, on any given day, even those of us who can, can't.  This is why regular 'topical' columnists have a more general back-up column or two tucked away.  Just in case.

Gyppo
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 06:52:14 AM by Gyppo »

Lin

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 09:32:40 AM »
I think it's a balancing act. You really have to think hard about the context of the sentence. If it is wishy-washy then I would omit it.

Lin

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2017, 11:09:31 AM »
Looking too hard for rules, can kill a story.

heidi52

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2017, 10:18:20 AM »
What if your character isn't strong, or forceful? If she's the type who would preface statements with "I thought" or "I think"  because she's unassertive.  Speech patterns like that could be a good way of showing her personality.

Lin

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2017, 12:27:13 PM »
Yes, that would be fine.  However, these days, publishers like strong characters that stand out in the crowd.  When you send in your synopsis and pitch to them they are looking for strength of mind to help lead the story into something gripping and wanting more.  When they read the first three chapters and the MC is not assertive it could be a sign of weak writing.  However, the 'I thought' can be used, and again, it's not what you write but how you write it to convey your intentions.

You could have a weak character in the beginning, who becomes stronger as the story progresses.  You would 'show' this through your synopsis. If I was writing from an unassertive character's POV, I would have her showing that she wants to become stronger and achieving her ambitions as the story unfolds.  

Just a thought Heidi.  Nothing is set in stone.

Lin xx  :)

« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 03:36:14 AM by Lin Treadgold - Author »

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2017, 07:51:43 AM »
There's a huge difference between a 'weak' character and a character weakly written.

Offline Plain Helvetica

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2017, 01:19:07 PM »
This is a useful essay on the subject if anyone fancies a read:

https://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/nuts-and-bolts-%E2%80%9Cthought%E2%80%9D-verbs

It does a good job of showing how often these filter worse are a crutch. As he says, after the exercise, feel free to use them all you want to, but you probably won't want to. (Not that I've done the exercise myself ;))

The unsure nature of a character can also be illustrated with words like 'probably' instead, if one wants to be more direct..

'I think that Janey would want to come to prom with me.'

'Janey would probably want to come to prom with me.'

Lin

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Re: Using 'I thought'
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2017, 10:10:53 AM »
Useful article thank you.

Lin