Would I write it like this?

I ran fearfully down the hallway. The thought Vampires are real!? repeated in my head several times as I avoided the horrid beasts.

So like would it be correct to not only make the thought present tense but also in italics? I know if the story is written in first person technically everything is a thought but if the protagonist was pointing out a thought they had in the moment would this be the correct way to write it? I don’t know if I asked this well. It’s hard to explain.

2 Answers 2


The present tense is not only fine but required for a quotation of the protagonist’s thoughts about a current situation. But to be strictly accurate, it should be in quotation marks rather than italics (single ones in the UK, double in the US), and you should pick one of exclamation and question rather than trying to do both at once. So it would be (using UK quotation marks):

The thought ‘Vampires are real!’ repeated in my head several times as I avoided the horrid beasts.


The thought ‘Are vampires real?’ repeated in my head several times as I avoided the horrid beasts.

But authors break the formal rules all the time for effect, and it’s perfectly OK for you to do the same. It is, however, important to know the rules before breaking them.

  • 3
    Yes, know the rules before breaking them, but I’d add: but then be consistent if you do break them. Italics alone are often used to show thoughts, but usually as whole sentences, or set off with strong punctuation (colons, dashes), which would requires a change of wording to something like: Vampires are real? The thought repeated in my head several times as I avoided the horrid beasts.
    – KrisW
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 12:33
  • 2
    Using an exclamation point and question mark together is common enough in modern writing to express both shock and uncertainty or disbelief, just how it's used in this context.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 18:39
  • Good answer (+1) An example of a literary technique removing the fronting (which is often considered to distance the reader) is simply to remove the indirection and have an element of the character infect the narrator's voice. "I fled along the hallway. Vampires are real? Vampires are real? Swerving, dodging. It cannot be! Vampires are real!" (I've also used the tricks of replacing adverb vague-verb with specific-verb in the first sentence and putting the swerving into a fragments to suggest agency).
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 19:48
  • The essential point here – something that not everyone may immediately realise – is that "Vampires are real?" is a quotation. Yes, it does not quote someone's speech but rather their thoughts; and this someone is not a different person but the same person who reports it. But it is still, essentially, a quotation.
    – printf
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 21:07
  • In a whole lot of fiction I've read, the standard is to use quotes for actual spoken dialog and italics for thoughts.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 1:32

Your original sentence has the right idea, using italics to convey a direct thought. But there's room to make this moment even more immediate and gripping for the reader.

Rather than stating the thought repeated, show it happening in real-time:

‘Vampires are real!?‘ The words slammed into my mind again and again as I raced down the corridor, the snarls of beasts echoing behind me.

See how this puts us right in the protagonist's mindset as the shocking thought crashes over them? Short, frantic phrases and present action beats better convey their panicked state.

Don't just tell us a thought recurred - make the reader experience that repetition. Reveal the thought's actual language to bring us deeper into the POV character's voice.

And balance thoughts with visceral actions - avoid big blocks of italicized text. Blend the physical with the mental to create an engaging rhythm.

Really inhabit your protagonist's perspective. Make their thoughts and reactions feel happening right now rather than just described. This immediacy and blending of inner and outer action is key for immersion.

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 7:56
  • I understand what you are saying but my question was just about the grammar and tenses not about the way it was written. I wasn’t really trying to make it novel worthy I just wanted a quick example but thanks.
    – Jas
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 20:08

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