Stop quoting your character’s mind

**Note: This was originally posted at my livejournal.  I thought it worthy of cross-posting because of the discussion that ensued within the comments.  A number of writers showed up to add their two cents and/or tell me I was full of poop. **

Do I have to preface this screed by saying that I prefer to write in first person POV, and prefer to read a good first person POV over third? I don’t think it’s necessary. The following can stand on its own, I think. But just in case, I said it, all right?

I really wish authors using third person (limited or not) would stop or at least limit quoting character thoughts for the following reasons:

–Stop dipping into the first person POVs bag o’ tricks! You chose third person POV for a reason, I assume. There should be a reason, dammit. POV is a tool to be used, to be put to work, not a default setting.

–When using any POV, don’t tell me thoughts. That’s lazy, frankly. Show me what the character is thinking/feeling through action, decisions, reactions. It makes for better fiction.

–Quoting a thought rings unrealistic to me. Maybe you all think in sentences, but I don’t. Sure, right now you might be thinking something along the lines of, “Paul is an arrogant jerkface,” but I doubt thoughts occur in your mind like a scrolling news ticker. The mind is a wacky-weird-wonderful and complex stew of emotions and nebulous inner reactions. Sure, author, you can distill that stew into a sentence or two, but should you?

Instead of writing, After reading his journal she thought, “Paul is an arrogant jerkface,” try this:

After reading his journal she unfriended him, changed her phone number and locks on her door, but not before posting one word anonymously on his journal. Jerkface. This makes for more exciting, thrilling reading, right? And, if you talented folk out there spent more than ten seconds writing the mini-scene, I’m sure you could show us readers much more insight into your character through her actions/decisions than by quoting a thought.

It’s just a thought.

Edited to add: I’m not against being inside the character’s head and describing thoughts to the reader, which is de rigueur for fiction in general. That can/has/should/is done effectively for a myriad of reasons. I’m screeding about direct quoting of thoughts.

view the original post with comments  here


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