Author Topic: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?  (Read 5093 times)

Offline abbyannis

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Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« on: September 14, 2009, 12:22:32 PM »
My completed novel is written in first person past tense. I know that technically that means all of the narrative is internal thoughts. However, some of her thoughts are in first person present tense. I've had mixed reactions to this, since I don't set them apart by italics, quotation marks, or thought tags.

Everything I've been able to find online says they don't need to be italicized, because it's all internal thought anyway. But I've had critiquers say that the tense change is jarring. I blogged about it, and someone suggested checking out BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY, since the way she does internal thoughts is similar to my method. And I did finally find an article that said this method was pretty common and accepted in chick lit.

Problem is, I don't write chick lit. I write YA SciFi. So, I'm curious what you all think of this. Should internal thoughts be italicized (or set apart by some other method) in first person if there is a tense change? Or is this just a style issue, and each writer is different?

My main concern is in the sequel to this novel, there is a character with telepathic abilities, and adding italicized telepathic thoughts from that character, to the main characters internal thoughts being italicized, seems like it would get a bit confusing. And there would be a lot of italics. I hope I'm making sense and not just rambling.

I would to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 12:28:30 PM by AGA »
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Offline ajcastle

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 12:52:16 PM »
 My novel is written in first person past tense as well. Whenever she has a thought in present tense, I do italicize. I also have a telepath and those conversations/thoughts are italicized as well. I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule here and I've read the same article as you. I know for me, as a reader, even though we are hearing all the characters summations and thoughts in the narrative, when my character is 'talking' to herself (i.e. her present tense thoughts) I do italicize and appreciate it when it's done in other novels. IMO it sets it apart and distinguishes it from the 'regular' narration. For some reason it makes the switch in tense less jarring, to me at least.

Offline Lizzerbear

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 12:55:53 PM »
My latest WIP is a YA sci-fi that's in first person past tense, too, and I've been putting internal thoughts in italics. I'm with AJ in thinking that it sets it apart nicely. I think it's an accepted format.

Hope that helps! At least you know you're not alone!  :)
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Offline laurabdiamond

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2009, 12:56:46 PM »
My novel is written in first person past tense as well. Whenever she has a thought in present tense, I do italicize. I also have a telepath and those conversations/thoughts are italicized as well. I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule here and I've read the same article as you. I know for me, as a reader, even though we are hearing all the characters summations and thoughts in the narrative, when my character is 'talking' to herself (i.e. her present tense thoughts) I do italicize and appreciate it when it's done in other novels. IMO it sets it apart and distinguishes it from the 'regular' narration. For some reason it makes the switch in tense less jarring, to me at least.

I agree and I did the same. One thing to consider: single quotes around 'telepathic thoughts' or another font? I haven't really come up against that, but I wonder what people think.

Bottom line: I'm sure it's fine to italicize both first person present thoughts and telepathic thoughts...the context should be clear enough so that it's not confusing.  :)

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Offline violet

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2009, 12:59:33 PM »
  :agree: Same as everyone else.

I italicize.


Offline ajcastle

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2009, 01:02:10 PM »
My novel is written in first person past tense as well. Whenever she has a thought in present tense, I do italicize. I also have a telepath and those conversations/thoughts are italicized as well. I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule here and I've read the same article as you. I know for me, as a reader, even though we are hearing all the characters summations and thoughts in the narrative, when my character is 'talking' to herself (i.e. her present tense thoughts) I do italicize and appreciate it when it's done in other novels. IMO it sets it apart and distinguishes it from the 'regular' narration. For some reason it makes the switch in tense less jarring, to me at least.

I agree and I did the same. One thing to consider: single quotes around 'telepathic thoughts' or another font? I haven't really come up against that, but I wonder what people think.

Bottom line: I'm sure it's fine to italicize both first person present thoughts and telepathic thoughts...the context should be clear enough so that it's not confusing.  :)

Laura

Interesting point. I know in my story, she barely ever has those immediate present tense thoughts and she isn't the one who's telepathic so we only see it a couple times when her brother (the telepath) projects his thoughts to her (he has both the power to project thoughts and hear them). And when she sends 'thoughts' to her brother. The context is clear so there is no confusion about what's happening -- at least my beta readers and I don't think so, LOL!

Offline abbyannis

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2009, 01:08:58 PM »

Bottom line: I'm sure it's fine to italicize both first person present thoughts and telepathic thoughts...the context should be clear enough so that it's not confusing.  :)

Laura

Good point, Laura.

And everyone else. :) Thank you!

My resistance on this one is slowly being chipped away. I just hate to admit when I'm wrong.   :no:
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Offline eallen99

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2009, 01:14:55 PM »
Coincidentally, I just got called out on this today! I didn't use italics for internal thoughts in my first book for the protag, so I won't in the second. What I am paying more attention to are the shifts in past to present tense. I can see where it could be jarring and I just make an executive call on how I want to adjust that without sacrificing content.

Offline Cheree

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2009, 04:47:03 PM »
I've heard two different sides for this. Some people who's critiqued me say you should, some say you shouldn't. I think it doesn't matter, as long as it's consistent through the entire manuscript, don't have some places in italics and some without.

Offline Magic_Seeker

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Re: Should internal thoughts be italicized in first person?
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2009, 04:53:01 PM »
This is what I've read, too.   :agree:   There have been many articles written on thoughts and italics, and they mostly disagree with each other.  As far as I can tell, there is no 'rule' - just preferences.

So, do it the way YOU want, unless an editor willing to buy it says otherwise.   :write:
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