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In the story I'm working on now, the MC often says things to herself.  I've been putting her thoughts into italics.  Is this enough?  Or do I still need to say "she said or she said to herself?" 

Thanks in advance.  :)
 

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JeanneM said:
In the story I'm working on now, the MC often says things to herself. I've been putting her thoughts into italics. Is this enough? Or do I still need to say "she said or she said to herself?"

Thanks in advance. :)
It's a bit of a tricky situation.

I use single quotations and do it just like dialogue. Like this: 'I like to think like this,' he thought.

Some people do it like this: I like to think like this, he thought as he looked upon the horizon. It sure beats doing it another way.

And then some people just do it like this: I like to think like this.

There are other ways, but those are the three main ways that jump to mind. The third option is best used in a first-person point of view story, in my opinion.

I avoid using italics in thoughts for a single reason though. Italics emphasize something in their normal use, and I'm not trying to emphasize thoughts.
 

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This is sometimes called "interior monologue" and you can read up on it in a lot of self-help fiction writing books. Or you could crack open your favorite novels and see how it's done in them.

The italics are optional. If you do it well enough the italics aren't needed, and the "he said to himself" aren't needed.
 

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Ryne Billings said:
It's a bit of a tricky situation.

I use single quotations and do it just like dialogue. Like this: 'I like to think like this,' he thought.

Some people do it like this: I like to think like this, he thought as he looked upon the horizon. It sure beats doing it another way.

And then some people just do it like this: I like to think like this.

There are other ways, but those are the three main ways that jump to mind. The third option is best used in a first-person point of view story, in my opinion.

I avoid using italics in thoughts for a single reason though. Italics emphasize something in their normal use, and I'm not trying to emphasize thoughts.
I find that using quotes make it look as though it is said aloud. That is always my assumption when I see a quotation mark.

I agree with Eric C that if you are doing it well in a novel that is in close 3rd, you don't need italics or quotes for interior monologue. Italics are traditional for it but now are considered optional.
 

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In my book, I put all interior dialogue in italics, with no quotation marks.

The only other time I use italics is in regular dialogue, as emphasis.

These two rules have made it very clear what is happening when, and none of my readers have thus far said they were confused by it.
 

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JRTomlin said:
I find that using quotes make it look as though it is said aloud. That is always my assumption when I see a quotation mark.

I agree with Eric C that if you are doing it well in a novel that is in close 3rd, you don't need italics or quotes for interior monologue. Italics are traditional for it but not are considered optional.
I might be the minority, but I never think that single quotation marks are said aloud. Double quotation marks, on the other hand, are always aloud to me.

That's why I refuse to read Lord of the Rings. They use single quotation marks in the dialogue, which forced me to give up a few chapters in. I kept wanting to take a pen and write the single mark in during every instance.

I do know that I hate reading a book that lacks an obvious indication of thoughts, be it italics or single quotation marks. It always looks sloppy to me. I also dislike dialogue that lacks a clear indication of who is speaking because it's easy to forget who said what. I know I'm not the only one that gets confused by that. Other readers have made it clear that they have the same problem.
 

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WriterGurl1 said:
Hi Jeanne, I agree with Ryne and Eric C, but as a reader I like the italics... it just makes it easier to distinguish inner thoughts.
Using italics is one of those things that some people like and some don't. I've had editors insist on them and others take them out back in the day when I sold to publishers. Now I go with my own preference.

I think Damon Knight had a good discussion of the subject in his book on writing. Don't recall the name of it though.

Edit: It was Knight's "Creating Short Fiction" where he discussed interior monologue I believe.
 

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Ryne Billings said:
I might be the minority, but I never think that single quotation marks are said aloud. Double quotation marks, on the other hand, are always aloud to me.

That's why I refuse to read Lord of the Rings. They use single quotation marks in the dialogue, which forced me to give up a few chapters in. I kept wanting to take a pen and write the single mark in during every instance.

I do know that I hate reading a book that lacks an obvious indication of thoughts, be it italics or single quotation marks. It always looks sloppy to me. I also dislike dialogue that lacks a clear indication of who is speaking because it's easy to forget who said what. I know I'm not the only one that gets confused by that. Other readers have made it clear that they have the same problem.
You must have been reading a British edition. Single quotes are the norm there.

Since I expect my reader to know that they are inside my characters head, why would they need me to tell them it is the character who is thinking? I respect their intelligence. :)

The same with speaking. There isn't a need for a dialogue tag with every piece of speech but only if the reader might not know such as if there are more than two people. However, I am more likely to use a beat (a speaker's action) than a dialogue tag.
 

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For first person or even a close third person, I don't use italics or quotes. The narrator is the person whose head we are in. And I'm not one to go for the "he thought" thing. Unless we're talking telepathy. That's a whole new ballgame.
 

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JeanneM said:
In the story I'm working on now, the MC often says things to herself. I've been putting her thoughts into italics. Is this enough? Or do I still need to say "she said or she said to herself?"

Thanks in advance. :)
I used italics when my characters were talking to themselves in first person throughout the book and I think (hope!) it works. When they're thinking in third person, I just used normal font, tag. That makes far more sense when you actually see it in use :D Sometimes, my characters argue with themselves in their heads, and then I use alternating normal/italic font.

:)

Edit:
That didn't make sense lol.

Examples of what I posted above:

1.
What a stupid idea. "Yeah, that sounds great." he said.

2.
What a stupid idea, he thought.

3.
You know you want to.
No, I don't.
Then why are you even thinking about it? Just do it.
No.
You can't resist me forever. Just give in.
Yes, I can.

And so on. :)
 

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William Peter Grasso said:
I'm a big fan of italics for inner monologue, Jeanne.

Hopefully, the thought identifies the thinker. If not, then you must identify who's thinking (note she's not saying...she's thinking) :)

WPG
If the reader doesn't already know who is thinking, the chances are you're head hopping and you have a bigger problem than tags going on. :)
 

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JRTomlin said:
You must have been reading a British edition. Single quotes are the norm there.

Since I expect my reader to know that they are inside my characters head, why would they need me to tell them it is the character who is thinking? I respect their intelligence. :)

The same with speaking. There isn't a need for a dialogue tag with every piece of speech but only if the reader might not know such as if there are more than two people. However, I am more likely to use a beat (a speaker's action) than a dialogue tag.
Every edition of Lord of the Rings that I have ever since uses single quotes. That includes library editions, a used copy that I found at a yard sale, the Kindle edition, etc.

I mainly make sure it's clear whose thoughts are the focus because I have two pov characters that are typically together. Sometimes, it's not clear which one is the POV character of the chapter until I reach the thoughts.

When it comes right down to it, we all have to do what suits us most. Things like this develop over time for each author, and it's not always a good idea to suppress something like this. It's a minor aspect of your voice as an author.
 

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Certainly, Tolkien would have used single quotes. Usually such British conventions are changed for US editions of novels but I wouldn't notice since I'm a large portion of my print novels are British editions. :)

I agree that there is nothing wrong with using italics if you're comfortable with it. I don't, which I'm comfortable with.
 

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Here are some interior monologue tips from "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne & Dave King:

Never, ever use quotes with your interior monologue. It is not merely poor style; it is, by today's standards, ungrammatical. Thoughts are thoughts, not spoken.

[Using thinker attributions (ie 'he thought', 'she wondered')] should be the rare exception. Whenever you're writing from a single point of view - as you will be ninety percent of the time - you can simply jettison thinker attributions. Your readers know who's doing the thinking.

Unless you are deliberately writing with narrative distance, there is no reason to cast your interior monologue in the first person.

And whether or not you are writing with narrative distance, it's not a good idea to cast all of your interior monologue in italics.

But if italics, first person, or separate paragraphs are to be rarely used, what's the norm? How do you set off your interior monologue when you're writing with narrative intimacy? Quite simply, you don't. One of the signs that you are writing from an intimate point of view is that the line between your descriptions and your interior monologue begins to blur. Readers move effortlessly from seeing the world through your character's eyes to seeing the world through your character's mind and back again.
 
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