Yesterday I posted an excerpt from chapter 3 of my novel Acephalous. In a private email, a reader questioned why a portion of the text was underlined. Here is that text:
“She had to give him a definitive explanation of her hesitations, now. As if I could really tell him… As she turned her car off, Jordan let his foot fall down from the tire he had it propped on.”
The underlined text above indicates the main character’s private thoughts—what she’s saying in her head in that moment. Normally, I would write this type of text in italics. That’s generally how I prefer to set apart character thought. However, when preparing a manuscript for submission, sources generally recommend removing italics from the submission-ready manuscript and replacing them with underlined text. In the publishing process, all of those underlined areas will be converted to italics upon printing. This is the reason I chose underlining versus italicizing.
There are other ways to set apart inner speech in writing. It’s really a personal and stylistic choice.
Start a new paragraph for the thought and change the font beyond just italics, underlines, or bolded text. Maybe choose a font that looks like handwriting, or one that reflects the character’s personality—prissy, stoic, fancy, sloppy, you get it.
I wish I could tell you what Molly told me yesterday.
Start a new line and use asterisks above and below the thought.
It’s not like I have anything better to do right now…
This method is better for large portions of thought like dreams, flashbacks, and letter-writing because having ********** every few lines will get very annoying visually.
Save inner musings for designated sections of the text, and then treat them like chapters and use the chapter title to indicate whose thoughts are to follow. Another similar option is the epistle form—letters, diary/journal entries, or blog/vlog posts written by the character (or any other method of self-recording).
It wasn’t like I really needed that job. More than anything, I just needed a place to go during the day where I would be around other people. People that I didn’t know. Staying in this building full of other guys my age is stifling. You’d think it would be cool living with your friends, going to school with those people, coming back home knowing they’re all still there. I thought it would be one huge party at first—like a frat house! Not so. There is no privacy. Boarding school sucks.
May 5, 2013
I can’t believe senior year is almost over. It’s sad. Those statistics they read in class today say we’ll never see each other again in all likelihood. You grow up with these people, act like you care about them, then poof. Separate ways.
Yadda, yadda, yadda… you get the picture.
The last note I’ll leave you to consider is that these variations on setting apart character thought can be used for stories written in any point of view. Even if the plot unfolds in first person (where your main character says, “I,”) you can still have moments where that person thinks or talks to herself. Just because they say, “I,” this, and, “I,” that aloud doesn’t mean that they don’t have “I” thoughts they don’t want to say publicly. This is a way to help your reader get to know that character better by taking a look at their personal feelings. It’s also a way for you to write more realistically human characters. For creating characters that are two-faced, shy, lying, conflicted, or keeping any type of secret, this is a method of defining private and public for that character, just as we do in real life.
If I’ve left anything out, let me know! How do YOU designate private thoughts in your writing? Have you run across any point of view scenario where these ideas would not work well?
I appreciate your readership and your input! Read and write on!
Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast