This is topic thoughts and writing letter and e-mails in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by tj5to1 (Member # 8575) on :
I know that thoughts are usually put in italics, so remind me how I should write letters, e-mails and Instant messaging? I once wanted to have each person that wrote a letter have their own style of handwriting like Lucinda Calligraphy for the female. But the publisher I was looking into only wanted Times New Roman or Courier New.
And, if I do Instant Messaging should I show it like this?
She saw that he was also online, so she wrote him an Instant Message.
Her: Hey, what's up?
Him: Nothing much. I should be doing homework.
Her: Me, too.
And Letters or e-mail:
Dear guy,
How are you? I'm good. How's the weather? We desperately need rain, but that isn't going to happen for a long time.
girl (here?) or (over here?)
Posted by TrishaH24 (Member # 8673) on :
I like how you have the IM running, and because most people know how IMs work, you'll have no problem getting your point across that way. As far as thought and letters go, the reason publishers and agents don't want you to pick different fonts when you write it is because that'll be chosen later. (Once you sell your MS, the publisher will take your opinions into account, if you're lucky, but usually they have all rights over font size and style, cover art, etc.) But when you have to get through dozens of MS a day, it's just easier to have it all in Times or Courier.

You don't have to put thought in itallics if you don't want. But I do. I also use itallics for letters. I space them out on the page so they are unmistakably letters (or emails, as the case may go). But again, you don't need to italicize a letter because it'll be set apart spatially. But it's up to you.

Hope that helps!

Posted by TamesonYip (Member # 9072) on :
I did posts on a message board in a recent story and I just tabbed in and had a shorter right margin. Also, did an extra space between the story and the message board stuff. I did not tab each new post, just left a space between them. It was pretty clear in that format to my beta readers and I don't think it would be distracting to an editor. If I sell that story, the editor can decide how they want it.

If there are lots of different formatting issues, you might want to make a style sheet (I think that was what it was called) where basically you keep track of how you do everything special so you don't later get confused and do IM one way on one page and a different way 4-5 pages later.

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
TamesonYip's right, a style sheet is the way to let editors and publishers know when you want something done differently.
Posted by Pyre Dynasty (Member # 1947) on :
Yeah, don't even worry about choosing fonts, there is a whole profession dedicated to that. As to the other things don't worry so much about how they will appear in actual print, just how you will convey what they are to the editor.

I think your IM structure works. OSC uses a lot of emails in his Ender and Shadow novels you might look at how he handled them. As for letters just a line break before and after and set it as you would a normal letter should work fine.


Posted by tj5to1 (Member # 8575) on :
Back to writing thoughts. I was told by an author that thoughts are usually in Italics. Are we advised to put any kind of quotations around the thoughts? Back in high school (long time ago in a land far away) I thought I remember being taught that a thought would go like this, 'She's so beautiful,' John Doe thought. Without italics.
Do we put any kind of quotations around letters, actual letters written on paper with a pen/pencil?
Posted by philocinemas (Member # 8108) on :
The thoughts depend on how tight the 3rd limited is. If Tom is in real tight, he can simply write the thought as a part of the narration. Would that work? Sure it would. He could just spout out his thoughts as part of the story. This would often work better - not having to interrupt the narration with italics or needless attributions. It would possibly be more challenging, but that's half the fun - Isn't it?
Posted by tj5to1 (Member # 8575) on :
There is a third person narrative, but the MC's will have thoughts, too. More showing, less telling.
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Stick with the basics...argue about fonts after acceptance.
Posted by philocinemas (Member # 8108) on :
Here is what I meant:

The monitor lady smiled very nicely and tousled his hair and said, “Andrew, I suppose by now you’re just absolutely sick of having that horrid monitor. Well, I have good news for you. That monitor is going to come out today. We’re going to take it right out, and it won’t hurt a bit.”

Ender nodded. It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future. Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.

- Ender's Game

Ender's thoughts are explicitly represented here, however, the 3rd person narration is so tight that italics and attributions are unneeded.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited December 16, 2010).]

Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
I do both -- mostly I let the POV character's 3rd-person-tight speak for itself (you're already inside his head, you don't need to be informed whose thoughts these are), but I also use italics for more-specific thoughts, or to give them a different pacing or emphasis. So to borrow from the above example (and add a few words of my own), I might wind up with something like this:


It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future. Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth. At least my lies are consistent.

Posted by philocinemas (Member # 8108) on :
...Not sure you realized it, but that quote was from Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.

Everyone has opinions, and I do not necessarily believe one person's opinion is absolute. However, when I attended OSC's writer's camp last year, he strongly warned against using italics to represent thoughts. His argument was that when people read italics, they tend to glance over them and that they are hard to read in general. He also stated that having a very tight 3rd person narrative did not require italics. He was adamant about not writing entire paragraphs with italics.

I have read some very good, very successful, novels where this was done, and it did not bother me. However, I thought OSC's opinion was worth noting.

Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Yep, I recognised the quote... I wanted to use something of my own but couldn't find something that was both brief and with the right context (didn't want to post a whole page worth). Proved easier to just tack something onto the OSC quote for my example.

I agree that italics are generally overused, but I think they have their place, both for emphasis and to set off certain thoughts. But IMO it's usually not a good idea to set off thoughts we see through that 3rd person POV window, unless we need to hear exactly what the character thought.

Well, here's one I'll just paraphrase... my POV character is muttering to herself about how

the person she's taken up with is a patent lunatic... she can't decide if he needs a leash or a keeper. Maybe a cage.
It creates a shift of emphasis. But I would not want to put her whole wandery chain of thought in italics; that would both be overkill and would dilute the impact of the last part, the decision part.

I think it also comes down to individual style. I've noticed as a general rule, when we're tightly in the character's head, it's usually okay, because there's already such a thin line between hearing their thoughts secondhand and firsthand. When we're pulled back a ways, as with a more omniscient view, the shift to a direct thought can be jarring; it's essentially a POV switch.

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
I would think that, just as authors are discouraged from including "er" and "uh" and other such hems and hahs in normal speech when writing dialog, authors would want to avoid including a "whole wandery chain of thought" whether in italics or not.

It's best to only include what is actually necessary, and allow the reader the option to fill in anything else. (To paraphrase OSC: everything in a story should have to fight for the right to be included, and only what wins gets to stay.)

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