To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

For the Critters workshop and writing SF/F/H in general.
  • Ads

To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit30275 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:29 am

Some critics suggest liberal use of italics to denote a character's thoughts.

Others say its barely used in actually published works and should be shunned.

I came into CC not using it myself. I just typed thoughts in the narrative, it being obvious to me that was the thoughts of the character whose POV you were in.

But I have come to use it in direct quotes to show emotions of specific thoughts with greater emphasis.

Not sure though if that is the right way to go.

So, I have gathered some samples from stuff on my kindle and wonder if you all would review yours and share what you find as well as what you think.

And without further ado...These are quick samplings from the following books and what I found (flipping through the book randomly for a moment or three).

The Hobbit uses italics for innner thought emphasis in the narrative at least once (the sun began to sink westwards - behind the mountains) but generally inner thought is expressed like any other dialogue with tags and quotes or as narrative (he wondered etc).

Mote in Gods Eye & Enders Game puts such thoughts into the narrative without italics.

Harry Potter (first one) uses italic thoughts for Harry at least once but usually in narrative.

Master and Commander has Aubrey observing and noticing as well as thoughts in the narrative. Nary an italic.

Casino Royale, The Cruel Sea, HMS Ulysses do the same. These all may be more omni.

Jurassic Park does both narrative and italics for specific thought quotes (with She thought preceding the italics). But I only found one example of that in two or three minutes of flipping through the kindle.

I had to page fifty some pages into Game of Thrones before finding a specific thought in italics, with a thought tag after it.

Italics definitely seems to be a rare bird, if not entirely unheard of.

Perhaps, though, a tendency toward it in more recent works compared to the past?

What do you find?
Name: Jay Justin
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:27 am

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit19292 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:01 pm

I would say that it depends on whether you are dealing with a PoV focused on a character or if the PoV is through the eyes and mind of a single character. There are rules (there are always rules). I believe that it should follow these -

If it is just an expression of opinion, then it should be in the narrative. If the PoV is outside the character, then use italics to indicate the thought IS that of the character. If the main character is providing the narration, then opinions should also be a part of the narrative. You would just write them as a normal part of the narrative.

If it passes through the mind as a statement then use single quotes if the PoV is outside the character showing that the character did focus on the words, although did not verbalize them. If the PoV is provided by the main character, I believe that you are to do the same. I however will tend to opt to also use italics to assure the reader understands this is not spoken dialogue, as in the midst of reading the difference in single quotes and double quotes can be overlooked.

I believe that is it. Hope it helps.
I will not deny myself having my opinions.
User avatar
Name: Roby Ward
Posts: 193
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:53 pm
Location: North Louisiana

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit11393 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:17 pm

I agree to above in general. I also think consistency of use trumps any "rules".
Name: David William McKay
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:16 pm

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit24868 » Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:50 pm
I found a pretty good, common sense explanation on the Editor's Blog. They call it inner dialogue.
Name: Terry
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:32 pm

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit29743 » Fri Jan 02, 2015 7:57 am

Agree with David. Be consistent and the reader will follow.
Name: Jon Hurwitz
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:53 am

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit32029 » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:47 pm

Not a huge fan of italics myself for purely stylistic reasons, but I honestly see no reason why you shouldn't use them.
Like others said, as long as you're consistent, the reader will adapt. If readers can accept having no periods, they'll be fine with italics.
Name: E M
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:39 pm

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit32330 » Sat Apr 23, 2016 4:38 am

Italics used in thoughts are a good way to show the reader if they're thoughts or not. In my opinion, the Italics should only be used in the third person narrative. In first person narrative, the Italics aren't necessary, as the thoughts are always in the story. I hope that made sense.
Name: Keira Wilder
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 23, 2016 4:26 am

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit32403 » Sat Jun 11, 2016 1:04 pm

I have to agree with the point that the reader will adapt. I use italics a lot in my books, and I use them in a very specific way. They pop off the page, so when I want some piece of inner dialogue to pop out, I use them. I've also used them to denote a difference in types of speaking (I had telepathy-like communication in a story so I used italics for that, and regular text for plain inner monologue.)
Name: Michael Formichelli
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:52 pm

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit32715 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:27 pm

I use italics to denote non verbal communication between characters, and occasionally strong thoughts. I find that readers are responsive to the stylization of each author that they read and provided that italic characters are used to denote either important thoughts that would be lost or confusing when paired with contradictions in dialog, or when using this as a way to indicate mental communication or even non verbal "advanced" communication between species it works well.
Name: Erik Brush
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:12 pm

Re: To Use or Not To Use - Characters Thoughts in Italics

Postby crit33324 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:27 pm

Well, right or wrong, I use both normal and italic for expressing a character's thoughts - often at the same time. I look at it this way: Sometime the character is just thinking, working something out in their head. But sometimes too the character is just having a sudden revelation - an OH or NO moment in their head, which is immediately followed by much deeper thought or personal analysis.

In these instances, rather than express an anguishing moment (all caps = italics) : Michael! No! It's my fault he's in this trouble.
I would express it instead: MICHAEL! NO! It's my fault he's in this trouble.

Undoubtedly, learned editors will decide what they will of this method, but I like emphasizing an instantaneous, peak emotional response from other simply troubled thoughts. It's like a kick in the butt. You feel the surprise and pain immediately, and afterwards just feel a bit sore.
Name: Jerold Tabbott
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:32 am
Location: Earth

  • Ads

Return to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Writing