Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Writing Techniques -- Character Thoughts

I read an article in Writer’s Digest magazine years ago that I’ve never forgotten. I don't remember its title, but the article gave advice on how to portray a character's thoughts without using clunky italics or resorting to typing, “he thought” or “she thought”. All that’s needed is to describe a physical action performed by the character (usually having something to do with his/her face or eyes), and then simply write the character’s thought after that line of description. Readers will instantly know whose thoughts they are.

An example. Say I have a character named Joe. He's tracking someone. He gets out of his jeep, crouches down in the middle of a dirt road, and maybe fingers some dirt. My sentence: “Joe scanned the horizon. They were getting away, and he was completely powerless to do anything about it.” There’s no doubt here who’s doing the thinking.

This is a technique we've all no doubt read in novels before (and now that I'm further along in my writing I employ it without thinking), but when the article spelled it out for me those many years ago, I remember having a Eureka moment.

1 comment:

M. C. Pearson said...

Cool. I use italics in mine because the whole book is from the character's viewpoint so the thoughts are like speaking quietly.