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I am writing a fantasy novella that ends up using a lot of internal monologues, often mixed with dialogue, descriptions, and other character's monologues. For example, this excerpt from the first chapter

Yoshida’s head was aching from where he had been hit. A bright light shone in his eyes, and he clenched them tighter. A cool, damp breeze wafted across his face.

The long blades of wild grass rustled as Yoshida sat up, his eyes flying open. A realization dawned on him as he looked at his surroundings.

“A forest? Wasn’t I just in my office in Tokyo?”

Dumbfounded, he sat for a moment. The forest seemed all too familiar, with its Japanese beech trees and ferns.

(It reminds me of when I visited Shirakami-Sanchi, that forest up North) he thought to himself.

He looked down at what he was wearing, and saw black cloth, brown leather belts, and chain mail peeking out from under a jerkin.

(Wait a minute, is this my Guild Mythos character?)

Day to day, Yoshida acted as the head of a small game-testing firm. Having been unsure of himself during his school days, he had taken journalism and game design courses, eventually making a name for himself as someone with a keen eye for quality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games—MMORPGs.

I chose to use parenthesis to be a clear indication for when a character is thinking for a few reasons: Firstly, I originally wrote a lot of the dialogue and internal monologue as new lines. Secondly, I wanted a very clear indication of when a character was thinking. Thirdly, I simply didn't know that italics were a standard.

The reason I wonder if I should change it is that I have written the entire book in this style. While I'm not opposed to changing it, I find that the parenthesis work well for what I use them for, and don't obfuscate what I'm trying to convey. Since I have used them throughout the entire novella, would you recommend leaving the parenthesis, or changing over to italics?

As a comment, I haven't tried italics yet, but I think they would make the internal monologue a bit harder to differentiate from the normal text, which the only other reason (apart from reducing extra work) I wouldn't want to make the change.

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Parentheses have a purpose, which is usually not to indicate internal monologue. They are used as asides and can be a method of breaking the fourth wall. They are generally intended to include information that will clarify a sentence but are rarely sentences themselves. This is an interesting choice, but might not be necessary.

I trust the reader to realize when a character is thinking something as opposed to saying it.

The long blades of wild grass rustled as Yoshida sat up, his eyes flying open. A realization dawned on him as he looked at his surroundings. A forest? Wasn’t I just in my office in Tokyo?

I would understand that the character is thinking that - even without the realization dawning phrase.

If you must differentiate the thoughts, italics are clear and the simple font change is not going to signal anything beyond this is different. Parentheses will signal something other than you intend and could be distracting.

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Yes! Change it!

When I saw the title my first thought was, do whatever you want, as long as it works. Then I read the question...and...it doesn't work. It's very distracting.

If you use italics, you can take out the "he thought to himself" bits, which are generally clutter. Or you can do it in unmarked text in certain cases.

Given that the internal thoughts are in first person and the narration is in third person, I would encourage you to use italics. No markup needs a bit more finesse.

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The standard is to not mark up internal monologue

because internal monologue is readily apparent by

  • first person pronouns and

  • thought-verbs

within the narator's passages,

but many contemporary novels, especially in the Young Adult segment, use italics to signify it.


What you choose is a question of personal style. Personally, I find the parentheses confusing.

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You do this in italics, without quote marks, usually as a new paragraph (like dialogue).

It reminds me of when I visited Shirakami-Sanchi, that forest up North.

If we see the thoughts of more than one person, attribute it like dialogue, but not in italics.

It reminds me of when I visited Shirakami-Sanchi, that forest up North, he thought.

"He thought to himself" is redundant, unless you have demonstrated that he is telepathic and can choose to think to somebody else.

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