Today’s Issue: Inner Thoughts
Welcome to Ron’s Lit Tip. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I will share a tip with you.
I often advise writers to use italics when allowing readers to ‘hear’ a character’s Inner Thoughts. And I do so again.
But what is so important about Inner Thoughts?
Glad you asked.
Inner Thoughts are the same as thinking. We humans are always thinking and whether or not your characters thinking shows up in a book their actions are the result of and reveal to some extent their thoughts. Sometimes letting the actions depict a character’s thoughts is the best route, but there are times when the reader needs to ‘hear’ those thoughts.
All the Characters?
No. Not even most of the characters. At the very least the reader needs to be able to understand and identify with the primary character. You want the hero or heroine to be as real as possible. This helps the reader identify with the character, maybe sympathize, or even approve of both the thinking and the resulting action.
I’m Still Confused.
You want the primary and maybe a few other leading characters to be real, not two dimensional. Broadcasting the character’s thoughts brings another dimension and can play a pivotal role in the overall story.
Sometimes when a character is facing a problem it can be worked out in thoughts. Instead of you the narrator telling the reader what he or she thought, you allow the character’s thoughts to be heard. The reader gets additional facts right from the character rather than the author.
That can be powerful!
So, why don’t all authors do that?
This may be hard to believe, but it’s possible they disagree with me. It is also possible that they simply never thought of it as being important. Usually such authors endeavor to inform the reader of the thoughts and think that is enough. But consider the following:
Jim’s story wasn’t believed by Detective Adams.
As Jim related his story, Detective Adams thought, There’s something wrong here. This just doesn’t make sense.
You decide which is more powerful.
I see your point, but why the italics?
Technically, there is no law that says you must use italics to indicate thinking. But I contend that if you use quotes (“”) a reader might think the character is talking out loud or if you use an underline (__) a reader my just think it is being emphasized but not really thinking. In both cases the reader may miss the idea of thinking.
Another thing to consider is that in the above example where the detective’s thoughts were shown it got more of the story such as time (as Jim related) and why the detective didn’t believe it (something wrong, and doesn’t make sense). If you were also hearing Jim’s story for the first time, the detective’s thoughts alert you, the reader, to a multitude of possibilities and might cause you to reread Jim’s story.
Oh, in other words, the reader will also wonder.
Yes. And look for clues to solve the mystery. That is just one example of how I believe a character’s thoughts can influence the surrounding scene and, possibly, the entire story.
Tip: Use a primary character’s thoughts to help tell the story.
Tip: Consider using italics to indicate thoughts.
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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. He is also an author of Historical, Speculative, and Mystery fiction, plus co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books. To reply to any blog you can comment on a blog and/or send an email to email@example.com. His Facebook page is at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. #Writingservices