and dialogue drive a story forward. In any given scene all
narration is usually the thoughts of a character. If a reader
can experience a characters’ thoughts, the story becomes
more intimate. But, showing characters’ thoughts can
be a bit tricky.
can also be like dialogue because they are associated with
an individual character, and they can be written word for
He/she said, “I can talk.” (Dialogue)
He/she thought, I can talk.
is strange but a fictional story can move a reader by what
we know does not exist. Readers respond to emotion through
words on a page. These words can move a reader to cry, get
angry, and even to feel horror. Fictional emotional situations
must make the reader actually believe the character really
in a fiction novel are not a presentation of facts. But true
statements can be made about what happens in a fiction novel
and beliefs directed towards those events can be true or false.
Once we realize that truth is not confined to the factual,
the problem disappears.
fiction written in the third-person, you’ll see thoughts
appearing in either present or past tense. To summarize the
thinker’s words, thoughts are better expressed in third-person,
past tense and written in normal font (not italics), with
or without thought tags, such as, “She thought”
or “He thought.” This actually is equivalent to
relating what someone said, rather than using their exact
words in quotation marks.
He wondered if she’d be on time.
most third-person stories you have a choice. You can elect
to tell the story from what is known as the omniscient
point of view. That’s how a reader can intertwine with
actions, motivations and occurrences associated with the story’s
characters. Writing in a single point of view or intimate
point of view, the reader can only learn what a character
experienced or heard about.
fiction writer often grapples with the problem of how to convey
a character’s inner dialogue. Sometimes a writer has
to use thought tags to avoid confusion, but such tags should
be used sparingly.
is one of the four ways to show character thoughts. Italics
is best saved for important thoughts, gut reactions and sudden
insight. Deep viewpoint is usually
used in a scene where the reader sees through the character’s
eyes, such as, “If I scanned the group in the jammed
packed square, will I see her?” Conclusions drawn
by other characters:
I knew she was staring at me. Her eyes revealed
my thought. They were going to be arrested.
create a scene where a character is revealing his/hers thoughts
a writer must use whichever tag that fits the story’s
plot. As in these four ways listed above, phases and sentences
that are to be active thoughts of a character, both thought
tags and italics can be used.
type of character’s thoughts that do not need
those treatments are those that reflect on the setting or
events as they take place from a narrating character’s
point of view. The point of view a writer uses will also determine
how to write a character’s thoughts.
editors will not read a manuscript that says…he thought
phase is considered a novice’s mistake and means the
writer didn’t take the time to do his literary homework
on a character’s thought subject.
further explain an editor’s reasoning, unless the story’s
characters communicate telepathically with their thoughts,
there is no other way to think than to think to yourself.
general, direct thoughts, those a person (character) thinks
inside their head, as though they were spoken but were a thought
instead, are written in italics without quotes around it,
but tagged the same way as if they had quotes.
Jane thought, I think I’ll go home.
said, “I think I’ll go home.”
when writing thoughts in fiction, a writer wants to be sure
that a reader understands that italicizing thoughts are the
thoughts in the character’s head as though they were
spoken inside their head.
(Scene with two characters)
thought it would be a good idea to go home.
thought, I think it would be a good idea to go home.
wondered whether going home was a good thing for Jim to
wondered, is it a good thing for Jim to go home?
writer must try to differentiate between telling the
reader a thought and showing them one.
if the writer is not in omniscient point of view,
or the point of view where a character is doing the thinking,
a reader can’t tell that person’s thoughts anyway
because the reader shouldn’t have access to them.
conclusion, if a writer wishes to improve his or hers skills
in writing, I suggest reading Evan Marshall’s Plan
for Novel Writing (2001). It’s a clear-cut 16 step
break down of the complex novel-writing process. By using
Marshall’s plan, a writer can have a story planned and
plotted before writing the first word.
go softly into the night. mgf