Writing craft: He wondered, how should he wonder?

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...The title has an extreme example of a self-attribution in interior monologue. That’s the thoughts that go on in a point-of-view character’s head. Consider these two ways to handle a character wondering about how a woman feels about him:

Jake saw interest on Elissa’s face. At least he thought it was interest. He wondered what she really thought about him. He wondered if she liked him, too.


A hint of a smile flickered on Elissa’s lips. Did she like him? Or was she laughing at him? She had been in his thoughts all morning. Had he been in hers?

Just a quick example that covers the same thing but in two different ways. First off, notice that in the second example there are no attributions. No “he thought,” “he wondered.” Why not? Well, as part of the larger text, the reader already knows we are in Jake’s head. When we see thoughts, they therefore must be Jake’s thoughts and it follows that an attribution is not required. There is no need to say, “he thought”.

How about wondering? I’ll confess I may actually think “I wonder what Renee wants to do today.” So people do use that construct in their head (I do anyway). But again we are already in the character’s head, an attribution is extraneous. Instead of saying “wonder”, show wonder by having the POV character ask questions. Asking questions is wondering: what do they want, what are they thinking, where does she want to go?

Why go to this trouble? The second form is more immediate. It is also a quicker read (even though it covers more ground), it shows more, and it brings us a lot closer to Jake. The first form is more distant (which sometimes has its purposes). The second form is much more intimate.