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Is there a general rule for past vs. present tense for a character's internal thoughts? Direct thoughts in present, while indirect thoughts in past?

I'm thinking specifically of 1st person here.

I heard a loud screech from beyond the gates, then silence. What was going on?

vs.

I heard a loud screech from beyond the gates, then silence. What is going on?

Does this change in 3rd person? Does one tense imply they're the narrator's thoughts more than the character's, for example? Or is that distinction solely made by context and tone?

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Either can be used, as @DPT says.

I heard a loud screech from beyond the gates, then silence. 'What is going on?' I thought.

Here, effectively, you are presenting the thought as internal monologue. The character is effectively talking to himself. You therefore treat it as if you were writing dialogue - present tense. It doesn't really matter that the character is talking to himself rather than to someone else, nor that the words are thought rather than said out loud.

I heard a loud screech from beyond the gates, then silence. What was going on?

In this case, as @DPT states, the thought is kept closer to the narration. The character isn't necessarily verbalising the thought, it can be more of a feeling. Consider: when you are startled, you don't necessarily verbalise in your mind 'what's going on' - by the time it would have taken you to verbalise, you're already responding in one way or another.

Either way is valid, but they create different effects.

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    I think your last paragraph is the key. The effect of past tense is a narrative: this happened, then I thought this, then this happened. The effect of present tense is a sense of immediacy, and to some degree intimacy: it's as if the author/narrator and you are sharing the thought as you read it. So the choice will partly depend on how the desired effect suits the genre, subject, and your personal style. – Chappo Aug 30 '18 at 8:02
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Direct thoughts tend to be in present-tense, even if the third-person narration is in the past, though admittedly, my main gauge for this is A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm sure there are many legitimate ways of doing this, but I think the rule of thumb is if you're going to include direct thoughts at all (I personally avoid them), you treat it like dialogue, like it's being thought there and then.

However, this requires a distinction between narration and direct thoughts. In the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, they use italics.

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Either can work, and you can use both in the same manuscript.

Some agents and publishers say that keeping it in third past is a 'closer narration.'

"Come with me." She really ought to grab his hand and pull him. The danger was that real. He had no idea.

Sometimes converting to italicized first, present tense may create a closer narration.

"Come with me." I really ought to grab his hand and pull him. The danger is that real. He had no idea.

"He had no idea" might be thought or narration in either of those.

It is easy to go too far with the italics, especially if you are using them for emphasis as well, in dialog. You want to aim to get the reader immersed in your world and might need to play around with various combinations.

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I would like to say that the thoughts take place in the present, given that they are narrating what is happening around them.

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