The ‘Rules’ on Writing Inner Thoughts in Books

Sometimes a disagreement gives me pause to explore how I see a certain style of writing and why. In this case, a member of my critique group and I differed on the use of italics for inner dialogue, or thoughts. He hates them. I use them. It has caused some strong discussion. (Yes, we remain good friends.)

Source: The “Rules” on Writing Inner Thoughts in Books ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader —

Basically, how you approach a character’s thoughts comes down to personal preference unless your work is going to a publisher with a strong editor and/or a strong style sheet.

In my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat and its two sequels, I used italics to indicate that the cat was using telepathy to talk to the conjure woman. My editor thought I didn’t need to do that, but I didn’t want to go through entire pages of “thought speech” with “Lena thought” and “Eulalie thought” tied onto all the lines. That might make readers think they were just thinking about those things when they were communicating them.

Italics becomes a bit of a problem when passages become lengthy. It’s generally considered harder to read–or a “put off” to readers–when it covers entire pages.

This piece in Indies Unlimited is, I think, a catalyst for us to think about what we’re doing when we write.



If you send a reviewer a screwy book, please call it back

If you’re like me, and for the sake of the world I hope you’re not, you occasionally accept a book to review and then before you’ve finished reading the first five hundred words, thoughts like these come to mind:

  1. bookreviewMy doctor won’t prescribe enough meds for me to finish this book.
  2. Burning toast would make a more compelling plot.
  3. If I shut my eyes, maybe the book will go away.
  4. Can a reviewer go into the witness protection program if s/he (a) stops reading the book and acts like it got lost in the mail, or, (b) gives it a negative review in hopes the truth will keep him/her safe and then discovers that it won’t?

Why can’t the authors who have books like this send me an honest e-mail in advance that warms me that the book has put a hex on every reviewer who tried to read it up to now?

Where was the author when the memo went around reminding people that Italics isn’t an easy type font to read, meaning don’t use it for 90% of the book. (Reminds me of some of my classmates who highlighted everything in every textbook which had the effect of highlighting nothing.)

Goodness knows, I don’t want to send you an e-mail that hurts your feelings–much less that makes you go buy a gun–that tells you this thing (or baby/pride and joy/life’s work/last thing between you and the poor house) isn’t cutting it.

If you were a real mensch, you would realize that I’m stuck: (a) ending up in an asylum after “doing the right thing” and reading your entire book and/or (b) lying about the book in a glowing review, and/or (c) going into the hiding in Two Egg, Florida until the whole thing blows up or blows over.

Frankly, I just want my life back and don’t think that’s too much to ask.


SOF2014lowresMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/satire Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.