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Old 12-05-2008, 05:39 AM   #1
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Italicize internal thoughts or not?

I have one MC, the only POV character in the story. This is NOT going to be in first person, no way, no how, but he does make a lot of mental comments about other characters and situations. IE, he only says about half of what he thinks. Kinda repressed.

Anyway, just looking for thoughts: should I continue to italicize his internal thoughts, or would you be comfortable if I simply left them the same as the rest of the text? Example:

With
“Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. Yes, the gift was mine. No, that doesn't automatically make us best friends.

Without
“Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. Yes, the gift was mine. No, that doesn't automatically make us best friends.
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Old 12-05-2008, 06:00 AM   #2
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Without sounds like first person.
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Old 12-05-2008, 08:00 AM   #3
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I think you can establish your own rules here. Italicizing all the MC's thoughts might be a little hard to read, if they are frequent. As Mono points out, if the story is basically *all* thoughts, you have, voila, first person. Like it or not. As long as you decide what your rule is and stick to it, and it's consistent with your genre, you can do what you want. I think.
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Old 12-05-2008, 08:07 AM   #4
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Perhaps I ought to have used a longer example; he's not having first-person thoughts every paragraph or anything like that. I'd say average of once a page?
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Old 12-05-2008, 08:13 AM   #5
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If you don't want to italicise, I'd write it like this:


“Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. Yes, the gift was his (/hers). No, that didn't automatically make them best friends.

Like Monolith said, without italics it makes it seem like a 1st person narrator has interjected. But that's reading it without context. My response might be different if I read a whole page.
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Old 12-05-2008, 09:01 AM   #6
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I use italics when I'm changing the word normally used for the speaker.

Don't worry. I'll explain.

When I'm in 3rd person:

"Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. Yes, the gift was his. No, that didn't make them best friends.

Sans italics.

or:

Yes, the gift was mine. No, that doesn't automatically make us best friends.

with italics. Because you're taking a speaker who's usually referred to as "he" and making him an "I."

Works in 1st person too. Making up my own example that will work better for this:

"I love you too," I said. God, I'm an idiot.

no italics. Or:

"I love you too, I said. God, you're an idiot.


'cause you change persons there too.

Do I make sense at all?
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Old 12-05-2008, 09:23 AM   #7
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It's all about clarity and consistency

In first person, there's no need to italicize (because it's first person!) unless there's ambiguity, or you want to be clear that it's some kind of immediate thoughts:

She walked through the door. She was radiant. Wow, I can just pee my pants how gorgeous she is. Then I caught myself thinking impure thoughts about her.
In third person, the general rule is that a direct thought should be italics to be set apart from the narrative:

She walked through the door. She was radiant. Wow, I can just pee my pants how gorgeous she is, he thought. Then he caught himself thinking impure thoughts about her.
If it's indirect thought, however, there's no need for italics:

She walked through the door. She was radiant. Wow, he could just pee his pants how gorgeous she was. Then he caught himself thinking impure thoughts about her.
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:47 PM   #8
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I do what maestrowork mentions. If it's direct thoughts written exactly as the character thinks them (usually in first person since that's how most people think), I italicize. If it's just a summary/paraphrase of what the character is thinking (and ends up not being in first person), I don't italicize.

As already mentioned, not italicizing (or otherwise indicating) first-person thoughts makes it seem like the story is suddenly shifting to first-person POV, which is jarring.
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:49 PM   #9
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I was going to make a suggestion but everyone else beat me to it! The first novel I wrote was in first person, and my current project is in third. In certain parts, though, I really try to capture the "voice" and personality of whomever the novel is focusing in at the time. I've found that that often makes reads much more scintillating, so I really think you can pull that off with the advice Albedo gave you! Like everyone says, either italicize or reword it. But, you're the writer, and it just depends on the tone you're trying to achieve. Personally, I like it a little better changed and in third person w/o the italics, but that's just one opinion!
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Old 12-11-2008, 07:53 PM   #10
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Your editor/publisher may also have something to say on the issue. Wizards of the Coast, for instance, has pretty specific rules on how to delineate internal thoughts.

Pick something, be consistent, but don't worry about it too much, as it could easily be changed by TPTB.

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Old 12-11-2008, 08:04 PM   #11
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I italicize internal thoughts in my manuscripts, and that's how they were eventually published (Berkley/Penguin). I think it is a common style.
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Old 12-11-2008, 08:43 PM   #12
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Both ways have been done successfully.

“Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. Yes, the gift was mine, he thought. No, that doesn't automatically make us best friends.

or

“Oh?” Okay, now it was awkward. He thought: Yes, the gift was mine. No, that doesn't automatically make us best friends.

There are a million ways to do it, italics or not.
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:13 AM   #13
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Minor diversion into cog sci --

Italicizing, like quotes, sets the words off into a different visual and cognitive "space" - in this case, cognitively the space of the character's thoughts. Not italicizing them keeps them in the same space as the main narrative.

So italicizing can make this distinction clearer (it's not the narrator it's the character), but sort of distances the thoughts by way of the separation.
Not italicizing, on the other hand, can make pull the thoughts closer to the narrative voice. But if that gets them too close, you get reader confusion (which space am I in/why isn't it consistent).

Every tool in our kit has an effect on the reader's brain. What matters is that the effect we get is the one we want, yes?
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Old 12-12-2008, 04:16 PM   #14
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I italicize, and that is the way it is published.
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Old 12-12-2008, 04:33 PM   #15
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Just be consistent and you will be fine. Since my books tend to deal first person with telepathy I never italicize regular thoughts but I do italicize characters thoughts to others.
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Old 12-12-2008, 07:51 PM   #16
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Italicization is the common way of doing this.

You don't necessarily have to italicize (see, for example, The Killer Angels.)

The rule is: Don't confuse the reader.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:18 PM   #17
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I like the use of italics for thoughts.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:58 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Palmfrond View Post
I think you can establish your own rules here. Italicizing all the MC's thoughts might be a little hard to read, if they are frequent. As Mono points out, if the story is basically *all* thoughts, you have, voila, first person. Like it or not. As long as you decide what your rule is and stick to it, and it's consistent with your genre, you can do what you want. I think.
Yep yep. Be consistent and the reader will get the hang of your style.
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Old 12-16-2008, 02:01 AM   #19
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Great thread, I was asking myself exactly the same question!
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:23 AM   #20
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My editor told me to either a) italicize, but without any phrase like 'he thought to himself', or b) use single quotes without italics, and 'he thought to himself' is OK. I mostly use the first method, but only for very short thoughts. I don't think in great long paragraphs to myself all the time and find it very unrealistic to read. I present my character's internal states as flashes of emotion or sensation, with a short thought fragment to spell it out if needed.
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:35 AM   #21
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The style rules at the houses I edit for say to italicize thoughts but you cannot use any sort of tag with it.
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Old 12-17-2008, 01:12 AM   #22
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I personally use italics for thoughts in my own scribblings.
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Old 01-22-2011, 06:49 PM   #23
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Great contributions here. Good info for writers like myself with less experience.

Thanks for the thread.
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:54 PM   #24
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Oh! This was very helpful to me also. Thanks for finding and bumping it.
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:36 PM   #25
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If the MS is third and the internalized thought is first, I use italics. if not, I leave it alone.
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