How to Properly Write a Thought Within Dialogue?

I've tried researching this, but everything that seems to pop up is writing internal dialogue. My interest is the proper format for writing a thought within current dialogue. For example:

"I sat there thinking, this can't be happening."

I know there's a way to write "this can't be happening" properly within that sentence, but I don't know what it is. Does it need to be in italics? More quotations?

Any knowledge and input would be appreciated. Thanks.

6 Answers

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  • 1 month ago

    Within a set of quotation marks, you use a set of single quotation marks.

    "I sat there thinking, 'This can't be happening.'"

    This would be a case of quoting a third-person point of view. If the writer was writing first person, they would need just the one set of quotation marks:

    I sat there thinking, "This can't be happening."

    My personal preference when writing in first person is to italicize thoughts - something YA doesn't allow

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  • 1 month ago

    I'm with Speed on this. First person narration means it's all the narrator's thoughts, observations, opinions, and such.

    "You're under arrest," the cop said to Mr. Curry. "The rest of you should stay where you are."

    I sat there. This can't be happening. Mr. Curry? [No need for the narrator to say they're thinking this. It's obvious.]

    "May I ask on what charge, officer?" Mr. Curry was unfailingly polite.That time Melody Porter's father had come barreling into class drunk and shrieking about his daughter's flunking the mid-term, Mr. Curry didn't get flustered, not even when Mr. Porter pushed him. [This, too, is the narrator's thought or memory. You can see how ridiculous it would be to italicize so much text.]

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  • Speed
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    That's because there isn't one correct way to do it.

    It depends on who your point of view character is and what person the narration is. For example, if you're using first person POV as your narrator, all exposition is their thought or memories and it would be ridiculous to put it all in italics.

    You can, of course, only share the thoughts of the POV character. If the narrator is someone else, they cannot know thoughts, unless you're using omniscient POV, which is quite unpopular for fiction these days.

    The only easy answer is for you to pick up a dozen recent books and see how thought is handled in each.

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  • David
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Write the thought in italics. 

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  • 1 month ago

    "I sat there thinking. Er....... Errrr...... Umm...... ah....... what was I saying?"

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  • 1 month ago

    I sat there thinking, 'This can't be happening!' But I was wrong ...

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