Saturday, March 3, 2012

What are You Thinking

And how do you actually think? Have you ever thought about it? I do, sometimes, especially when I'm writing up a character who can't talk, or one, like me, who doesn't talk much, someone too shy to do much more than watch, watch and think.

Do you think to yourself in words? I do, sometimes. Every once in a while, when something happened to me that really pissed me off, I'll go on about whatever I'm doing, but in my head I'm saying all the things I'd really like to say to the person face to face. I'll never say it, not really, but it's nice to get it all said, even if it's only in my head and never out loud.

But how about for other things? Let's say you're planning your day. My days at work are generally laid out and are much the same from day to day, but in the interest of efficiency, I give some thought to planning some of the smaller details. You know, something of this sort is done more in images.

So how do you write these kinds of things in your stories? The thinking in words part is easy enough; it's just dialog without the quotation marks and italicized - something I didn't know until recently, so it's something I need to change in all my manuscripts. I also need to add such thoughts. Many are already there but in third person. People don't think in third person much, unless they're thinking about someone else.

That leaves writing in thought images. But think about it for a moment. We all write in images all the time. Turning it from a seen image to a thought image isn't all that different. In the interest of consistency, changing it to first person and italics would clue your reader into the fact that it's an internal thought.

Another thing about thoughts, or more accurately, the word 'thought'. Using the words 'he thought' after you've done all the previous mention work can be a bit redundant. Saying 'he thought about doing this or that' is good, but if you have a sentence like, If I could only think of something interesting to write about, I thought. The words 'I thought' are a bit of overkill. Not that it's wrong; I'm reading The Hunger Games, and I see this frequently. I'm sorry, I know the book is very popular, but every time I see this, it just jerks me out of the moment. You never want to jerk your reader around. Don't get me wrong; I love the story, but I've seen several cases of incomplete sentences too. Who knows, maybe the editor got too carried away with the story and overlooked some of the errors. I can certainly see it happening. We're only human, and it is a captivating story. That's one reason it's always wise to have someone else edit your work. Even beta readers have their value for this reason. They don't expect what is coming and so see what is written.

So tell me, how do you handle thoughts?




12 comments:

J. R. Nova said...

A good post, Anna, and important. In stories thoughts can wreck a scene or make it golden. It's a tricky situation to intrude into the character's mind. It can only be done from certain points of views, certain persons.

So I try not to think...too much. Both in my writing and in my life ;)

Anna L. Walls said...

Hahaha - you know. I think I do pretty much the same thing way too much. haha Thanks for stopping by.

Joe McCoubrey said...

Anna - great blog. I agree entirely with the wrong usage of the 'he thought' words. It's enough to italicise the thought sentence in the proper context - readers will know what's intended without what appears to me to be little more than a condescending explanation. Onward with the little grey matter!

Anna L. Walls said...

haha Thanks Joe.

JB Bruno said...

Worthwhile post, Anna. I come from a screenwriting bg, having two full-length produced, so I'm used to having that format for dialogue. Since I've been writing more narrative, I have used different techniques, but I avoid "he thought" as much as possible. Assuming your writing isn't first person, which makes it easier, referencing that the character thought process is in motion, and then letting it go.

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks for stopping by, JB. I took a look at your blog too. I'd love to be a fly on the wall there someday. I'm a professional fly on the wall, you know.

Penelope Crowe said...

I know what you mean!
Sometimes it is hard to figure where to fit the ideas and thoughts of the characters without sounding too wordy and almost crazy sometimes. Never broke it all down as nicely as you have though.
Great post :)

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks for stopping by, Penelope. I'm so glad you found this useful. Sometimes I wonder if hit the mark and actually understood what I've learned correctly or if I'm way off in left field somewhere.

FCEtier said...

Thought provoking subject!

Anna, et al...

I've been struggling with dialog in scenes where a character is alone. One device could be to let them talk to their pets (dogs and cats, etc.) or think out loud, maybe?

I'm finding it difficult to tell a story with dialog if there's no one to talk to.

Any suggestions -- other than to write in someone to talk with?

Anna L. Walls said...

I do that all the time, and I hope I'm getting better at it. Think about it for a minute. Being a loner myself, most of my characters are loners too. What do you do when you are all by yourself? What goes on in your head. You can bet much the same thing goes on in anyone's head when they are alone. Don't be afraid to have your character talk to himself. Maybe he's going to go meet with someone who makes him feel uncomfortable. He might rehearse various greetings or go over the subject of the meeting to make sure he remembers all the points. If he's just passing the time doing what he's doing, then he may be planning his moves in images. There's many different ways to handle such a scene, but what I find that works best for me is to put myself in my character's shoes and try to figure out exactly what I might do or think. I hope that was helpful. It also sounds like a good idea for a whole blog post. Looks like I'm starting one now - hahaha

FCEtier said...

As a child, I had an imaginary friend.
Hmmmmmm..........I wonder......

Anna L. Walls said...

Ooh - So share out loud (or at least here). Creating an imaginary friend, either for a child or for an adult, is a twist I have never see, not yet anyway. It's always the fever hallucinations, or something similar.