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Added a post  to  , NaNoWriMo 2021

Quick style question... in my novel the protagonist can hear thoughts, so following Stephen King's example, I am doing those in italics, with brackets around.

My question is about thoughts... These are generally shown in italics, as mentioned, but are quotes always used? I can't decide which I like the look of better, so thought I'd ask what is common practice? I may have to go browsing in my library and see what others have done... don't think I've really paid attention prior to this! 

I'm thinking yes, quotes, but are they optional or mandatory? 

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    • As Karen says, italics only. No quotes.

      Quotes indicate words actually spoken. (With the non-descriminatory caveat that they can involve non-verbal forms of speaking.) So, if all the communication is telepathic, then you would put them in quotes as it would be the default means of communication. But in any setting where what we would consider normal speech is the norm, thoughts should either be in italics, or not indicated at all.

      The supporting logic for the latter choice is that leaving them as plain text reduces psychic distance. If you italicise them, you are calling out that they are thoughts, inserting an authorial layer between character and reader.

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      • OK... I did that at first (Italics, no quotes), then started second guessing myself, and added the quotes... then I couldn't decide which I liked better, and started wondering if there was a standard... so thanx for the clarification, I'll go delete the quotes - again...😚 

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        • I don't know if this helps, or is relevant, but I have a protagonist whose inner experience (memories) is key to the narrative. He's quite a thinker, but also remembers a lot of dialog, and potentially it's a mess. I've tried to reign in the chaos by limiting italics to just a few 'what the...?' moments, to make it clear he's thinking these exclamations. The rest should be 'deep point of view', leaving remembered dialog, which I've done in italics, with quotes. I think it works.

          On the other hand, I have another protagonist who's totally lost in his own fantasy world, and I'm still thinking about how I'm going to represent the boundary between that and reality... First-world problems!


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          • I'd say your protagonist who's lost in his own world is an antiproblem; the boundary between reality and fantasy doesn't exist in his mind, so why would it in what you present to the reader?

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            • The TV show ‘Legion’ did exactly that brilliantly in my opinion. It dealt with a central protagonist who may or may not be experiencing psychosis, and just simply depicted reality and the perceived reality inside his head in precisely the same way. No differentiation between them. And no immediate explanation of any discontinuities and illogic. It was left up to the audience to make their own determination as to what was really going on from clues and connections that were dropped along the way. Very clever, and a demanding and therefore highly enjoyable experience.

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              • Yes, Legion is a great example of show writers trusting their audience to figure things out and make connections, and how to RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain) 

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              • I've always used italics with no quotes, which (from what I've read) appears to be the standard, particularly with 3rd person point of view. However, as per Karen's point, as long as you're consistent with your approach throughout, readers are less likely to get lost or confused.  

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                • Hmm, and is there a standard to be used when a protagonist is speaking with a ghost? And is the only person who can see and converse with said ghost? At present, I've written it as standard speech.

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                  • Interesting... does the ghost ever speak when other people can't hear it/him/her, but the protagonist can? You might want to use the same convention I am for the mind-to-mind communication, and put the ghost's conversation in bracketed italics... just to differentiate it from regular conversation...

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