First off, I'm sure someone will direct me to this question, and I want to make it clear that my question is different. I find myself using a lot of questions in my writing to express my character's thoughts. I'm wondering if I do it too much and if there are any suggestions for how to do it less. Here is a short excerpt that will show you what I mean:

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And then down a little later on:

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Basically, I am trying to show that my character had a lot of questions that she doesn't have answers to and that she is trying to figure things out. Is there a better way to do this? Does asking so many questions annoy the reader?

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    I'm only one reader, but it doesn't annoy me at all :) – DM_with_secrets Nov 13 '20 at 16:22
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    If your character is constantly asking questions of themselves, it does make them sound indecisive and weak. If that's what you're shooting for, good. – DWKraus Nov 13 '20 at 22:09
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    @DWKraus Or thoughtful and contemplative, depending on the questions :P – DM_with_secrets Nov 13 '20 at 22:26

You are showing that the character has a lot of questions. Also that the character will do nothing but gape at the questions for some period of time. If you want to show her trying to figure things out, you want to show her figuring.

For instance:

What was this place? She wished she had caught a glimpse as they were brought in. The lack of windows made it so hard to figure out anything. The bare walls and floors were like nothing else she had ever seen. Old Jane had talked about orphanages like that, but everyone knew she liked horrors -- and if it were an orphanage, why were the adults here?

and doing things to accumulate evidence:

She idly asked Jack if he knew where they were. He shuddered and looked at the potatoes they were peeling and did not speak to her again.

Master Smith was heading to the back of the room. Her eyes narrowed. No one ever went there except the bosses. She would have to be careful to not get caught, but she thought that she would learn nothing elsewhere.


I think it really depends on what questions you are asking.

For me, this isn't really annoying. The questions just make me wonder and curious. If you were to ask really obvious questions the reader might already be asking themselves, that might be annoying. But when you ask thoughtful questions that help the readers make predictions.

I do have one suggestion though: I do think that there is a little bit too much questions that you could cut off. At the "later on" part, there were two questions: What was it that had saved her? Was it pity? I think that maybe you could try to merge those together, maybe something like "Did the guard save her because of pity?" This question seems a little more complex, and sounds a little bit less annoying.

Other than that, I don't think that you should be too concerned about it. When you show that the character is asking questions, it's bringing out her thoughts more, it's showing her personality a little bit. It's showing that she is curious and likes to ask questions.


It really depends on your narrative voice (i.e. who is telling the story to the reader). This is fine for Third Person Omniscient (the narrator is telling a story and knows all), Third Person Limited Omniscient (the narrator is telling the story and knows all from one character's perspective), First Person (The narrator is the main character) or First Person Epistol (The narrator is a character in the story but is relaying the story of another often in the form of a letter, a biography, or news report and is not privy to the main characters exact thoughts but may give voice to his own). It's not permissible in any Third Person Limited narrative (AKA "Camera Lense" In this style the narrator is only allowed to convey to the reader observable detail as if a security camera looking in on the events.).

It's been a while since I read the books, but I recall Harry Potter having this style where the narrator gave voice to Harry's internal monolog and emotions, (or on rare occasions, the focal character of the Chapter who was not Harry, such as Vernon Dursley in the first chapter of Book 1 or the Caretaker of the Riddle Family house in Book Four). In all examples, emotion of the focal chararacter is told by the narrator as if he and the focal character were the same person, but non-focal characters were only allowed to portray emotions by physical actions such as frowns, smiles, looks of smug satisfaction, ect.). Other styles would have the text phrased in a format of a dialog but not given quotation (Often Itilicized Text in Dialog format is used to covey thought monologs, but other methods exist to. In Animorphs, which had different degrees of telepathic communication, the Less Than/Greater Than symbols (<>) were substituted for quotation for the most common form of telepathic communication (called thought speech) and Underlined Dialog was used for a much rarer communication using true telepathy.).

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    The question was specifically about questions - you don't seem to have addressed that? – DM_with_secrets Nov 13 '20 at 22:28

For me, it seems like you, the author, and not she, the character, are posing the questions. That is, they seem more like rhetorical questions asked of the audience (i.e., asking the audience how she had not been scolded as opposed to the character asking herself). When I write my character's thoughts, I usually write them as though they were dialogue where instead of quotation marks I denote the "mental dialoge" in italics followed by the appropriate speaker tags (e.g., [thought], thought my character to themselves). I would maybe recommend this over what you currently have so as to make it more explicit that what the reader is reading is a thought and not some fourth-wall breaking rhetorical question.

For example: Instead of "How had she not been scolded?", I would recommend something to the tune of "How have I not been scolded? she thought to her self as she remembered the look on the guard's face[...]"

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    I disagree. The way the thoughts are presented in the question (third person, no italics) is completely normal and common to third person stories. I would only assume that this was the narrator asking the audience if it had previously been made clear that we have a very distinct narrator who has their own personality and breaks the fourth wall. As currently written, I think it's perfectly clear that these are the character's questions (and turning them all into first person with italics would annoy me, but that's a matter of personal taste). – DM_with_secrets Nov 18 '20 at 11:59

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