4

For the occasional use of inner voice, Italics are usually recommended.

However I have a protagonist who is speaking with himself all the time, and Italics use quickly becomes tiring and distracting.

I saw that in that case, like in Donaldson’s chronicles of Thomas Covenant, no italics are used, there is only a space, and no quote marks, to indicate the inner thoughts.

Yet, my protagonist’s inner voice also comments during regular dialogue, and if the inner voice is not tagged it could become very confusing, and if it is it would be different from the rest of the scenes where an untagged inner voice is used.

Yet, another complication is that an external supernatural character also speaks to him in his head and that needs tagging too. Using CAPS or bold is not a practical solution and italics may already be used for the dialogues.

Do you have any recommendations for this dilema?

EDIT

"This question may already have an answer here: Direct thoughts 4 answers"

Thanks for the link, but not they do not really offer a solution the gist is to use italics or some sort of tag followed by some «he said” or “I thought to myself”. That is dumb, cumbersome, and clunky, of course it is “he thought” since it is inner dialogue. as i reader i hate that, specially if it is often used, as in my case it would be.

With no specific Tag it would get confusing during dialogue.

C1 said ”It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” while vaguely indicating the sky. Pompous ass! “Yes, it is a fine day for early spring” C2 amicably replied while debating the merits of stuffing him with his own umbrella. He smiled at him, pretending to watch the sky. I hope you drown in a sudden outpour, you dimwit. they stood on the entrance of…

The only viable recommendation is the first-person POV, but that is not good for sales as most novels are in the 3d person. The goal is to write for a broad audience and not for some literati minority. I don’t think that that original question was answered either, it may be that there are no solutions.

the Q Punctuating Thoughts

is in favor of marking inner voice the same as dialogue, but that would become impossibly confusing in a dialogue with a voice over inner dialogue.

2d EDIT

In Direct thoughts

@micapam answered "The habit of italicising characters' thoughts should be left where it belongs, in the pre-New Wave history of science fiction, and cheap pulp fiction thrillers. Unless you are writing 'young adult' or juvenile fiction, I would strongly advise you to continue to avoid italics, punctuation or any other clunky markers to separate chracters' thoughts from the enclosing narrative.”
@ Lauren Ipsum If the character's thoughts are really dialogue, or a monologue, you do have to set it off. I personally prefer italics […]If you're worried about overdoing italics because you're using them for telepathy and for thoughts, for example, then rework your passages with thoughts so they're more narration and less direct monologues. In any case, using italics for emphasis is entirely fine, no matter what else you use italics for.
@ what Do not use italics when a character is thinking

I am very sorry if I am wasting time, splitting hairs, but I am not really satisfied with the answers, my main problem is one of volume. Low frequency inner thoughts can be set in many different ways without detracting from the reading. This particular story is full of inner toughts, including during dialogue.

I find that no marking is very confusing during dialogue, obvious marks like italics or quotes used too frequently detract from the narrative dream, and reworking the passages to make them narration misses the whole point of the inner dialogue and critical commentary on the world.

For telepathy, since it is less frequent, yes I can use different options, but the problem is for the main character. I am aware that there may not be any ideal solutions, and that it is based on author’s preference, but is there any solution to the dilemma?

Also I hate “he thought”, or worse “i thought to myself” tags, are they really necessary? in the 1th person they are redundant, and in the 3d they seem unnecessary since it is a direct voice in the present set in a 3d voice past. So my question is also dependent on avoiding using “he silently thought” type of tags.

I see that in How do you write a character's internal monologue?

@what “Overall, marking up thoughts with italics feels like an amateurish device to me (…) the distinction between thought and non-thought is unmistakeable without italics, just by the grammar of the sentences and the explicit statement of "I think/tought". Without italics (as markup for thoughts – or shouting) the text appears more elegant and of higher literary quality.
AND As you can see, Collins uses italics for some few thoughts, but not for others. In fact the whole novel, told in the first person, consists of the interior monologue of the protagonist, Katniss. The italic parts within this interior monologue appear to be more outward directed (what Katniss imagines she might have said), while the non-italic parts are everything else that goes on in Katniss' brain: what she thinks to herself.
Here is a third quote from Collins, where this distinction becomes more apparent: again the unspoken words are directed from a speaker to a listener, but here it is not Katniss who "speaks" them in her mind, instead she imagines hearing them:

Is this the only potential solution?

  • We already have many similar questions that answer this, e.g. Direct thoughts. In short: do not use markup for the thoughts of your protagonist; do use italics for telepathy; do not use bold face or caps at all. – user5645 Jun 9 '15 at 4:15
  • I think I understand the problem, and have edited the title to reflect this. Reed, please feel free to revert my edit, or further change it. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '15 at 5:06
  • Thanks for the title clarification. I hope that i haven't wasted everyone time since i admit i didn’t read all the other inner voice posts first as my problem seemed unusual. – Reed Jun 9 '15 at 6:07
  • 1
    Additionally, if you're going to contemptuously dismiss part of your potential audience as "artsy-fartsy," that will leak through to your writing. Their money is as good as hoi polloi's, and you won't be earning any of it. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 9 '15 at 9:47
  • 1
    Instead of using bold and italic, couldn't you just use a different font? I have seen that in books. – S. Mitchell Jun 9 '15 at 16:34
2

Using first person might work best for a situation like this. You'd be able to easily convey inner thoughts, use quotation marks for strictly dialog, and have the option to format intruding other "inner" voices differently...

As I approached the burnt-out shell of the stone building, I thought it looked like the fires of hell had consumed it. You don't know what hell is like, a voice in my head thought. I shook my head to clear it.

...or as vague thoughts:

As I approached the burnt-out shell of the stone building, I thought it looked like the fires of hell had consumed it. As if I had any idea what hell was like! Why did I think that? I wondered, confused. I shook my head to clear it.

  • Thanks, yes I feel the story should be told in the first person because it is very internal, yet from everything I read first person is to be avoided for genre or commercial novels. – Reed Jun 9 '15 at 5:10
  • I'm not sure where you've heard this. First person is very common in genre fiction. Do you have statistics on this, or a source? (Perhaps this is a separate question?) – Neil Fein Jun 9 '15 at 5:11
  • No i read that in several "how to" writing books. First person is also said to be mostly used, or rather misused, by beginners who feel the need to stay close to their characters and it is only the rare master who can pull the first voice. In every writing book I read, the author strongly recommended in a way or another to favor the 3d person over the first. – Reed Jun 9 '15 at 5:19
  • that is when it is not used by some pretentious "literary" style trial. yet you may be right, and i may have to use the first, though i am greatly afraid for that to greatly reduce any commercial chance the novel may have. – Reed Jun 9 '15 at 5:51
  • 1
    Sounds like you found a "how-to" writer with an axe to grind. That seems like an overly broad generalization to me. First person can be accessible and effective, and third-person can easily become arty and pretentious. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '15 at 5:55
1

The most important thing you need to establish is a consistency of approach. Decide on a way to introduce a voice, reinforce it a couple of times and then get on with writing. The important part here is showing the reader what you're conveying, rather than blindly sticking to prescribed style. (if every writer always stuck to the prescribed style, there would be considerably less great literature)

Logically, you need to have some way to convey to the reader that the voice has started and stopped (and you need to do that in a way that doesn't stand out, and offend the eyes!) The reader needs to be able to instantly recognise who is saying what, at which point it will become an unconscious task and the reader will hear a different voice as they read.

So for each voice you wish to convey have a different way to contain it, and maybe a different style to what is said. So the internal voice could be a more timid questioning language, while the supernatural character could be much more forceful and direct in the language.

.> So maybe for the supernatural character you could put them on a new line. Perhaps start that line with a space (or some other character '>' for instance)

For mid-dialogue thoughts, 'a single quote would sufficiently distinguish the thought from the rest of the sentence' you could even introduce multiple inner thoughts with different characters ...ellipsis would work too, for instance... all on the same line. @@though you probably want to keep it subtle, so as not to offend the readers eyes@@

The important part to remember is that good writers know how, and when, to bend - and occasionally break - the rules of grammar in order to convey the story they want to tell.

Make language work for the story you're telling, rather than allowing yourself to be held hostage by it.

0

This is an excerpt from my answer at Direct thoughts


I have gone through the contemporary English language fiction I own and have found that in the vast majority of novels the thoughts of the protagonist are printed in roman type (not italicized), while outside voices the protagonist hears in his head are printed in italics.

Examples:

Use italics for:

  • utterances that are not verbal (e.g. telepathy, communication implant)

    »Right now, that's all I know, but we'll keep you informed as we can. That is all.«
    Weapons status? Van snapped across the shipnet to Lieutenant Michael.
    Tenty-one torps left, ser.
    Thanks Weapons.
    (L. E. Modesitt, Jr., The Ethos Effect)

Do not use italics

  • when a character is thinking:

    »We'd be able to [...] do what we pleased.«
    And not what your father tells you to, I thought to myself.
    (Kim Stanley Robinson, The Wild Shore)

  • There's no need to be nasty towards this user; remember it's a site rule to be nice. Also, this doesn't address one of the main points of this answer, which is multiple internal voices. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '15 at 16:05
  • @NeilFein Of course it answers that, and I already answered it in my comment. There are two "internal voices" in the question: the person's own thoughts and the telepathic voice. Commonly the thoughts are not marked up, and telepathy is italicized. I even backed this up with research. This is the third time I answered this question. – user5645 Jun 9 '15 at 19:26
  • "utterances that are not verbal (e.g. telepathy, communication implant)" - Sorry, I must have missed that before. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '15 at 19:41
  • @What i did follow the link you provided and read your response. Now I read it again here, and it wasn’t clearer. It took me another pass to notice that you mentioned “ printed in roman type “ as in different from the rest of the text. Sorry but I thought that you meant no tag, just using the same police, as in using times new roman for the whole doc (which wouldn’t work well for me). I don’t think I am the only one who didn’t get this, so thanks for the clarification. – Reed Jun 10 '15 at 14:32
  • Wait, in the comment to my original Q you stated "do not use markup for the thoughts of your protagonis" which doesn't work for dialogue. now i am confused is it no tdifferent than the rest or use a different font? – Reed Jun 10 '15 at 14:48
0

This is an old thread from a user that, as best I can tell, does not hang around much any more. Nevertheless, I did think of something different to help in such a situation.

The OP had three types of "inner" dialog issues (bolding added):

Yet, my protagonist’s inner voice also comments during regular dialogue, and if the inner voice is not tagged it could become very confusing, and if it is it would be different from the rest of the scenes where an untagged inner voice is used.

Yet, another complication is that an external supernatural character also speaks to him in his head and that needs tagging too.

There is certainly a lot of precedent to use or not use italics for inner dialog, and whether one chooses to or not I believe is up to the writer. So I'm not here to advocate for one or the other.

But I do believe that one should be consistent (i.e., either use italics and change the "rest of the scenes" to that or write the dialogue interruptions in a way that allows for non-italicizing while also avoiding confusion).

Using the OP's example, then either add italics:

C1 said ”It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” while vaguely indicating the sky.
     Pompous ass! “Yes, it is a fine day for early spring” C2 amicably replied while debating the merits of stuffing him with his own umbrella. He smiled at him, pretending to watch the sky. I hope you drown in a sudden outpour, you dimwit. They stood on the entrance of ...

Or do not italicize, but even as I did above, properly break up the paragraphing to indicate the new speaker, so then the thoughts are separate from the C1 speaker entirely. (Really, the OP's example works fine for me, as long as the paragraph break occurs. Without that, it is hard to tell if "Pompous ass!" is from C1 or C2.)

C1 said ”It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” while vaguely indicating the sky.
     Pompous ass! “Yes, it is a fine day for early spring” C2 amicably replied while debating the merits of stuffing him with his own umbrella. He smiled at him, pretending to watch the sky. I hope you drown in a sudden outpour, you dimwit. They stood on the entrance of ...

Yes suppose some type of delineation is wanted when mixed with direct speech only, but not italics (since "the rest" does not use it). If the interjections are kept to a minimum, then an emdash might work:

C1 said ”It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” while vaguely indicating the sky.
     Pompous ass!—“Yes, it is a fine day for early spring” C2 amicably replied while debating the merits of stuffing him with his own umbrella. He smiled at him, pretending to watch the sky—I hope you drown in a sudden outpour, you dimwit. They stood on the entrance of ...

So with or without italics can be made to handle the character's own inner voice. The writer needs to decide.

But what of the external voice, and especially if italics are desired for the character's own inner voice (since italics could be chosen for the external voice otherwise). What to do with a third, specifically delineated, mental voice?

This dilemma is that reminded me of a book series I read when I was in high school, Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, in which the dragon Ellegon spoke telepathically to the characters. While I searched for an online example of what Rosenberg did, I could not find it, so my memory will have to serve at the moment, but he simply used an asterisk (*) in place of the quote marks to indicate this mental speech. So adapting the OP's example, using three forms of delineation, it might be this:

C1 said ”It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” while vaguely indicating the sky.
    Pompous ass! “Yes, it is a fine day for early spring” C2 amicably replied while debating the merits of stuffing him with his own umbrella. He smiled at him, pretending to watch the sky. I hope you drown in a sudden outpour, you dimwit.
    *That wasn't nice to think!* said the haunting voice of the mental intruder in C2's head, as they stood on the entrance of ...

So the point is that sometimes, writers can get away with making their own conventions for these things. As long as the reader is made to understand what is going on (such as using a pair of asterisks for mental speech delineation), then adding such into the writing can help the reader keep things straight. Once the convention is established, then phrasing like "said the haunting voice of the mental intruder in C2's head" used above would not even be needed. The reader would already know that the * ... * was from the previously established external mental voice.

0

If you are self-publishing, or can discuss it with your publisher, you could use a second font. This question is a matter of style, so there are a few ways you could do it, but I want to try and generalise them:

  • Implicit
    • Sentence structure and narrative
    • Using an indicator such as - or () around the thought
  • Explicit
    • Italics / Bold or similar
    • Different font (changing from say, Times New Roman to Arial)
    • Stating it was a thought "the voice said" vs "he thought"

I personally would use a mixture of those things. In my story, I use italics for thoughts and quoted italics for speech.

An implicit approach could be:

"Do you understand?" They asked. - No, I don't - but then their voice came again, this time from everywhere. Their lips didn't move. "Perhaps you understand now?"

So an explicit approach could be:

"Do you understand?" They asked.

No, I don't, I thought.

Then their voice came again, only this time as an echo in the mind. "Perhaps you understand now?"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.