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I came upon this paragraph during my practice for a literature test.

"...Lin stood in the yard facing the front wall while flipping over a dozen mildewed books he had left to be sunned on a stack of firewood. Sure thing, he thought, Shuyu doesn't know how to take care of books. Maybe I should give them to my nephews. These books are of no use to me anymore."

In one of the questions, the answer categorized the above except as an "indirect dialogue". However, according to my research, indirect dialogue should be a conversation that can be summarized in a narrative, that is, letting the readers know what happened without showing them the exact words exchanged. (also corroborated by https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/ask-writer/what-is-indirect-dialogue) According to this definition, then, the above excerpt should not be an indirect dialogue since it is not a conversation?

Thank you very much for your help.

  • A fair argument, except how do we know whether this is a conversation or even a summary, or not? As far as I can tell, it could be a conversation in his head: 'Sure thing, Shuyu doesn't know how to take care of books,' said one part of his mind. 'Maybe I should...,' said his other part. Without knowing more about the excerpt, it is difficult to pass definitive judgement. – Trevor Christopher Butcher Oct 24 '18 at 14:07
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It's not indirect dialogue. It's internal dialogue. It's describing the literal dialogue that's taking place in Lin's mind at the time that it's happening. (The key to that is the tag he thought.)

For a discussion of how to style internal dialogue, you can refer to Marcy Kennedy's blog post "How to Format Internal Dialogue."

Note that while you can use italics or roman text (depending on the point of view), Kennedy says that quotation marks always signal words spoken out loud, so they should never be used for internal dialogue. (Although this may be more a common convention than an absolute rule.)


For example, the quoted passage could have been styled in the following way:

Lin stood in the yard facing the front wall while flipping over a dozen mildewed books he had left to be sunned on a stack of firewood. Sure thing, he thought, Shuyu doesn't know how to take care of books. Maybe I should give them to my nephews. These books are of no use to me anymore.

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