When we report speech, we describe what one character says to another character.
When we report thought, we’re essentially describing what one character says to themselves.
Can you see both reported speech and thought in this snippet?
Some people say I will never return home but I believe firmly in my heart that I will.
This is a Highlighting exercise - please apply these tags to this snippet.
Do you notice how both the reported speech and reported thought segments of that snippet follow the same reporter-delivery-message structure?
Here’s another example:
He thought it was suspicious that so many of the haunted places were inns that needed some publicity and restaurants where the rugs smelled weird.
We can take the idea of reported speech a step further into describing the world through a character’s senses.
We only need to extend our definitions of ‘reporter’, ‘delivery’, and ‘message’ a little:
What do we get if we analyse an example of the 'reporter-delivery-message' pattern in terms of clause components (subject, verb group, complement, modifier)?
But there's something a bit weird about this analysis. Conceptually, the message is the most important part of the statement (because it is describing what is happening), but grammatically it's not the main clause; it's a supporting clause.
Let's look at another example.
Again, we have:
Using grammatical components to analyse this sentence breaks it up in a way that obscures an important similarity between the "she had told him..." example and the "he thought..." example—they are both describing the world through someone else's perspective.
Can you find the reporter-delivery-message structure in these snippets?
Bod heard Scarlett choking back a scream.
Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger's ears were shining with a faint silver light.
Indirect description is useful for a couple of different effects.
It gives us access to a character’s internal world
In particular, how they perceive and interpret people and events.
This information is important to how we understand cause and effect in stories—in particular why characters do the things they do—and we have whole lessons just on this topic, like this one about goals and motivations.
It highlights the reliability of a statement
We tend to take narrator statements as straight fact:
But when the narrator reports their perceptions, we as readers become aware of the potential reliability or unreliability of the statement:
(The fancy term for this is “evidentiality”—literally ‘what evidence do we have that something is true’.)
Thinking – know, believe, imagine, forget, remember, recollect, realise, decide, recall, hypothesise, understand, assume, recognise, infer
Feeling – wish, fear, appreciate
Perceiving – see, hear, observe, notice, sense
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