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Old 09-08-2012, 04:45 PM   #1
sissykristine123
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Internal Dialogue Question

Perhaps my fellow editors out there can help me. How do you punctuate "internal dialogue"? That is to say, how do you handle it when a character is thinking to himself.

For instance:

"Damn," Charles thought to himself. "How am I going to get out of this locked closet quietly with a room full of partygoers downstairs?"

OR

Damn, Charles thought to himself. How am I going to get out of this locked closet quietly with a room full of partygoers downstairs?

____________________________________________________________

"Geez," I thought to myself. "Sandy isn't going to give me break on this. She clearly wants all the sordid details."

OR

Geez, I thought to myself. Sandy isn't going to give me break on this. She clearly wants all the sordid details.

Do you "quote" this stuff?
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:20 PM   #2
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Thoughts

You can use single quotes to differentiate it or you can use italics. Whatever suits the story best.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:16 PM   #3
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Others will know better, but I believe the style for published fiction is no quotes or italics on internal dialogue. It used to be italics, but it's changed, from what I've learned. This bugs me.

However, for posting on Lit, I don't think it matters as long as you're consistent.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:23 PM   #4
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internal dialogue

You can just leave it alone.

Or you can italicize it.

However, PennLady is correct, bugged about it or not, the new thing is to leave it alone...

No matter your choice, and I mostly leave it alone - it does need to be the same throughout.
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Old 09-08-2012, 09:41 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sissykristine123 View Post
Perhaps my fellow editors out there can help me. How do you punctuate "internal dialogue"? That is to say, how do you handle it when a character is thinking to himself.
I italicise, because it seems to be the best option for stuff like this:

*****

"Aleks, should I call her today? Or leave it a bit longer?"

"Just give her damn call already. Today just as bloody good as tomorrow. But if you call today you don't ask me same damn question tomorrow."

"Fair enough." Not quite Plato, but it was the answer I wanted to hear and that's usually good enough for me. I slunk back to my room and dialled before I could change my mind but what if she's hoping you won't call -

"Hello?"

*****

When I write this, I want the reader to feel the narrator's desire and doubt together. So I need to flow from one to the other as smoothly as possible. I still need to distinguish between action and thought, otherwise I'll confuse my reader. But I don't want to separate them.

If I break it into two sentences, or use quotes, that creates a separation that weakens the effect. If I don't punctuate it at all, I'll confuse my reader. Italics make the shift clear without interrupting the flow.

Of course, that's how it feels to me on the author's side of the story. Maybe I'm over-thinking it, maybe it doesn't matter so much to the readers. But I haven't had any complaints about it so far.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:52 PM   #6
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Dear Bramblethorn, I noticed that you did not italicize the entire quote. I liked what you did. I have somewhat of a rudimentary knowledge on the use of italics. I was taught to use it for emphasis only. Further, i was instructed to use it sparingly. Honestly, i never considered using it for internal diologue.

"Fair enough." Not quite Plato, but it was the answer I wanted to hear and that's usually good enough for me. I slunk back to my room and dialled before I could change my mind but what if she's hoping you won't call -
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Old 09-09-2012, 01:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sissykristine123 View Post
Dear Bramblethorn, I noticed that you did not italicize the entire quote. I liked what you did. I have somewhat of a rudimentary knowledge on the use of italics. I was taught to use it for emphasis only. Further, i was instructed to use it sparingly. Honestly, i never considered using it for internal diologue.

"Fair enough." Not quite Plato, but it was the answer I wanted to hear and that's usually good enough for me. I slunk back to my room and dialled before I could change my mind but what if she's hoping you won't call -
I was always taught that "Bold" was used for Emphasis.
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Old 09-09-2012, 02:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennLady View Post
Others will know better, but I believe the style for published fiction is no quotes or italics on internal dialogue. It used to be italics, but it's changed, from what I've learned. This bugs me.

However, for posting on Lit, I don't think it matters as long as you're consistent.
That's right. The tendency now is no italics, but we're not talking hard and fast here, we're talking style and usage. A lot of it is flexible. I noticed that Stephen King didn't use italics way back in 'The Stand'. Not sure about earlier. But then he's from Maine and he's using single quotes like the English rather than the North American double as well.

I've noticed that with no indicators, they always seem to state it is a thought whereas in dialogue, you don't have to.

Dialogue:
"I'll go take Sonya for a ride."

Internal:
I'll got take Sonya for a ride, he thought.

I'm leaning toward not italicizing in a story unless I'm going to put a pile of info in for the reader to see what's going on in their gourd so I don't have to always have the tags. They get tiresome after a while.
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Old 09-09-2012, 02:45 AM   #9
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Here are the two that I use for internal dialogue:

'What the heck?' I thought.

OR

'What the heck?' I thought.


Italics is better.
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Old 09-09-2012, 03:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazyhobo View Post
I was always taught that "Bold" was used for Emphasis.
Might depend on the situation. I've certainly used bold for emphasis in technical work, especially when I want to emphasise a change ("lobotimise" -> "lobotomise") but I can't recall ever seeing it used that way in ordinary fiction, and it would seem kinda jarring to me.
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Old 09-09-2012, 07:46 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramblethorn View Post
Might depend on the situation. I've certainly used bold for emphasis in technical work, especially when I want to emphasise a change ("lobotimise" -> "lobotomise") but I can't recall ever seeing it used that way in ordinary fiction, and it would seem kinda jarring to me.
I used it in one story for a character's dialogue at certain times to emphasize that the character was using a power to control others. I couldn't think of another way to do it. The only other times I think I've seen it in fiction is maybe when the author is quoting a sign that a character saw or something like that.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RodenAddison View Post
That's right. The tendency now is no italics, but we're not talking hard and fast here, we're talking style and usage. A lot of it is flexible. I noticed that Stephen King didn't use italics way back in 'The Stand'. Not sure about earlier. But then he's from Maine and he's using single quotes like the English rather than the North American double as well.
True, it's not a hard and fast rule. And there's a difference between posting here on Lit where there's no set style and a print book. Publishers do follow guidelines, many of them the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). And style has changed over the years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RodenAddison View Post
I've noticed that with no indicators, they always seem to state it is a thought whereas in dialogue, you don't have to.
That's a big reason I miss the italics. It was a great visual cue/clue that you had internal dialogue going on. So yes, without it, you have state that it's a thought.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyAll View Post
Here are the two that I use for internal dialogue:

'What the heck?' I thought.

OR

'What the heck?' I thought.

Italics is better.
I think italics is better, but I wouldn't use the single quotes with it. You don't need that much to differentiate it.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:37 AM   #13
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I would personally say that it generally depends on the story and the way you write it.

For instance, if you don't have much of a monologue, but you do a lot of detail in Non Speech text, then having something specific to separate them, such as italics or ' ', that's fine.

But, if you instead are writing the story from the Characters perspective, then most of the detail you read is just a detailed version of whats in their mind, thus having something such as italics would be pointless, as most of the story would be in italics.
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Old 09-09-2012, 02:23 PM   #14
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If you wish to follow the authority used for mainstream fiction in the U.S. market (the Chicago Manual of Style, 13.41) you can use either system given in the example of the OP (but stick to one way) and NEITHER of the examples given by Beatnic_jazzman.
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:55 PM   #15
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I've always used single quotes for internal speech/thought and double quotes for spoken dialogue. A personal/professional preference, and it works too well to do it any other way.

I intentionally avoid the other two methods (double quotes for both spoken dilogue and internal speech/thought, and no quotes) as being unnecessarily confusing.
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:20 PM   #16
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American style uses single quotes for nothing other than the second, internal level of quoted passages (with double quotes always being the first level). The British system does use single quotes for more. But this is a major difference between U.S. publishing style and British style.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:06 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
American style uses single quotes for nothing other than the second, internal level of quoted passages (with double quotes always being the first level). The British system does use single quotes for more. But this is a major difference between U.S. publishing style and British style.
Well, I'll try to find a moment or two to send a note to the Chicago Manual people and encourage them to yank their heads out of their asses.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:08 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by BONNIEBREA View Post
Well, I'll try to find a moment or two to send a note to the Chicago Manual people and encourage them to yank their heads out of their asses.
Good luck on that. They're likely to ask you what country you're the queen of.
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Old 09-11-2012, 08:21 AM   #19
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Hating to agree with sr, he makes very good sense here. Thought is not dialogue and needs to be treated differently. Forget the punctuation marks for speech, go back to basics.

A lot of writers confuse 'thought' with 'dialogue' and get in a mess.

Forget the apostrophes and dialogue rules. Thought/emotion is handled in the story and not in 'dialogue'.
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Old 09-11-2012, 08:31 AM   #20
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Sorry, I didn't explain myself.

Dialogue is not appropriate to thoughts.

Adam wondered why Eve spent so much time round the apple tree but took it in his stride.

Aren't thoughts only availiable to protags and speech never in anything but direct dialogue?
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Old 09-11-2012, 11:21 AM   #21
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Hating to agree with sr, he makes very good sense here. Thought is not dialogue and needs to be treated differently. Forget the punctuation marks for speech, go back to basics.
That's not agreeing with me. My point is that where there are "most used" publishing standards, use them. They have been established so that how you render these things should not intrude on the flow of the reader's read, and if you follow "most used" standards, they won't.

Rendering thoughts just like dialogue (roman/inside double quotes) is, in fact, one of the rendering choices sanctioned by the "most used" style authority in the U.S. publishing system for the humanities--the Chicago Manual of Style (13.41). So, I'm not saying not to render them the same way (and thus, once again Elfin just doesn't get what my advice is). (I don't like it personally, so I tend to use the other sanctioned method--roman/no quote marks. What I really like the best is italics, but that's not sanctioned, so I'm not arrogant enough to use it just because I'd prefer doing so.)

Running on your own personal rules isn't just arrogant; it also means you think that this publishing business is all about you and the reader can just go hang. Standardized publishing style is established for the convenience of the writer and the understanding of the reader.
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Old 09-11-2012, 08:42 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfin_odalisque View Post
Sorry, I didn't explain myself.

Dialogue is not appropriate to thoughts.

Adam wondered why Eve spent so much time round the apple tree but took it in his stride.

Aren't thoughts only availiable to protags and speech never in anything but direct dialogue?
This can be done a few different ways. The way you've suggested here (Adam wondered why Eve spent so much time around the apple tree but took it in his stride.) is a third person omniscent way to describe what's going on in Adam's head. But here he's just wondering about something, and that's different from him thinking specific words.

I have done all my writing in first person, so perhaps my perspective is a little bit different. Here's an example from one of my stories. In the scene I wanted to contrast what the character is saying with specific words that are going on in her head. And following the internal quote are ideas that are general in nature and don't necessarily require exact words.


“I’ve never taken my clothes off in front of anyone, not even my mom for years and years,” I continued, even though that wasn’t entirely true. “My face felt all hot and bloated and I felt kind of lightheaded. I was really, really regretting what I was doing then. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed,” I said. And I thought, ‘That was the point when I began to feel such a power over Matthew. He was mine, my little toy, as his eyes anticipated the removal of the last shred of cloth between them and my naked breasts.’ I felt instant guilt at keeping those real feelings and thoughts from Father, who was working so hard here to help me, but how could I tell him any of that? Besides, my feelings the previous Friday truly had been a mixture of the two: the feeling of dominance over Matthew and the shame and embarrassment and subservience.


But you can see how using double quotes for the internal words would be confusing, even with the 'and I thought' preceding them. And with single quotes for the 'That was the point when...' portion of the interior musings it's possible to seperate out those thoughts in specific words from the unquoted general thoughts that follow. The three styles: double quotes, single quotes, and no quotes have their own functions in my writing, and the method works very well to avoid confusion.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:14 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BONNIEBREA View Post
But you can see how using double quotes for the internal words would be confusing, even with the 'and I thought' preceding them. And with single quotes for the 'That was the point when...' portion of the interior musings it's possible to seperate out those thoughts in specific words from the unquoted general thoughts that follow. The three styles: double quotes, single quotes, and no quotes have their own functions in my writing, and the method works very well to avoid confusion.
Speaking for myself, those single quotes in your sample would throw me. My first thought would be that a double quote was missing somewhere. I can't say I've never seen your method used, but I can say that I am far more familiar with italics or lack thereof for thoughts.

Like sr, I prefer italics for thoughts, but if that's not the standard then I wouldn't send it to a publisher that way. I have used it on Lit but I've tried to get away from it.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:27 PM   #24
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British style sometimes uses single quotes for thoughts--more formerly than now. It wouldn't throw me, but that's probably because I lived extensively in former British colonies with access to British-published books.

As I posted, though, arrogance in not following "most used" publishing styles just because you "know more" than those who make a business of setting standards would indicate to me that the author was just too self-possessed and thick-headed to want to either edit or read.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:53 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennLady View Post
Speaking for myself, those single quotes in your sample would throw me. My first thought would be that a double quote was missing somewhere. I can't say I've never seen your method used, but I can say that I am far more familiar with italics or lack thereof for thoughts.

Like sr, I prefer italics for thoughts, but if that's not the standard then I wouldn't send it to a publisher that way. I have used it on Lit but I've tried to get away from it.
They would throw me as well, PL.

To me the issue is simple. I want to improve as a writer. Learning publisher standards will help me improve. And the more I incorporate those standards into my writing, the easier they become to follow.
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