1. BlackBird
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    BlackBird Member

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    How to write "telepathy"

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BlackBird, Jan 5, 2013.

    I am wondering how does one think they should write telepathic conversations.

    One of my characters has the ability and putting it in quotes like regular speech seems odd.
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Some people here seem to be strongly opposed to using italics, but I think this is precisely the case when it would make sense.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, telepathy is simply dialogue. You indicate it through context, not by misusing italics.

    Telepathy is just the medium. So far as writing is concerned, it's no different from a conversation by telephone, two-way radio, or wig-wagging with signal flags.

    Check out He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue.
     
  4. BlackBird
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    BlackBird Member

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    I'm sorry but Stan Lee, who pretty much concreted the telepathic speech through Marvel, used different speech bubbles between normal and telepathic speech if I remember correctly. Most of the graphic X-Men novels that have followed, follow the same concept.

    However, if I am to understand you:

    "You are so handsome," she thought, affection reflected in the telepathic link.

    Compared to

    You are so handsome, affection flooded his veins at her thought.


    Personally I see people not understanding a telepathic conversation if it is written in quotes unless it is literally spelt out for them as exemplified above.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Comics are not writing. Comics are a visual art, and the rendering of text IS an accepted part of the means of expression. Font stunts are not appropriate for standard fiction.

    It is the writer's job to write clearly. Don't use italics as duct tape to fix poor writing.
     
  6. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I'd say it's different in that it's usually only "heard" by one person, not everybody present. If there are scenes where both normal conversation and telepathy messages take place simultaneously, it might be useful to distinguish them visually. I don't think it's necessarily poor writing, it just allows you to concentrate on something else without mentioning the means of communication all the time.

    But yeah, don't do it if you are planning to publish it in the US.
     
  7. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I think it all comes down to making it comfortable for the reader to read. I've read books where thoughts are written in italics. It's never put me off. I don't see it as a crime against good writing.
     
  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are talking about a random thought and not a conversational exchange (dialog), then, yes. Italics are actually a standard form of presenting that single, isolated thought. If, however, you are talking about an actual exchange of communication, then it falls under the category of dialog and should be treated as such, quotation marks and all.

    Unless you are targeting the lowest common denominator of the reading public, I think you need to give your reader a little more credit. Once you have established that the communication is via telepathic link then they will understand that the conversation is communicated telepathically. Then, of course, if the character actually speaks, that becomes the uncommon communication and that would need to be made known to the reader as well.
     
  9. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    The Eragon book series had telepathy with italics, it's pretty popular.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'popular' does not always mean 'good'... and the majority of respected critics agree that 'eragon' is poorly written... same goes for other 'popular' but poorly written stuff like dan brown, james redfield, and stephanie meyer churn out...

    if you only want your writings to be popular and don't care if your writing skill is panned, go ahead and do whatever you want...
     
  11. BlackBird
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    Duct tape over poor writing - yet when I was 15 years old, I wrote my first junior novel as a hobby over two years. It sold 350 books. I'd say my writing has only gotten better since then, abit I don't write as often.


    Thanks for your advice, as is it how about an example? It is a novel concept to comment in a negative context yet if one can not give an example to correct other people's supposed errors how is that advice and not simply words been spoken, a means of deter a would-be author rather than advise and assist?

    If telepathic and normal communication happens in the span of the same page for example, people aren't going to understand that one is telepathically spoken and the other is normal words through one's lips.



    Given the fame that Harry Potter, Twilight, and other fad books have - which to me are written in a very basic writing style meant more for children or young adults than mature adults - become so popular I'll stick with my belief that readers are a simple breed. I was reading Herman Melville and Charles Dickens before I was 12 years old, I had 2 degrees before 20, and had my PhD before 30. I experienced more by the time I was 35 than most people will ever in their lives - through traveling, working, etc.


    Neither advice against the concept seem to understand that in a single page of telepathic and normal conversation an average reader would become confused. There has to be some distinction between the two methods of conversations without outright say

    She spoke - every normal sentence

    The thought touched his mind - for every telepathic sentence.


    Repeated - pointers - of the same stuff over and over again become boring and cliche. Such as how one can't go over and over a character's appearance twenty times without making the character a bore.
     
  12. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    What constitues 'good' writing is down to personal opinion. As far as I am aware there is no rigid formula for assessing quality of enjoyment. The best way to do this, imo, is to judge works, writing, art, music, by how they are received.

    I'm not advocating sloppy writing, idle editing, etc. but, if you are judging some of the most popular writers as poor, then how are you judging the readers who apparently lap up their books?
    I've read Dan Brown. I don't apologise for that. I enjoyed his books.

    Phrases such as 'churn out' do a disservice to these writers and their readers and smack of snobbery and elitism.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The thing is, I don't have to convince anyone. It's no skin off my ass if you or anyone else ignores my advice. If you wish to argue, you argue alone.
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    In Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, he uses Italics for telepathic communication, and sets off what his hound says to him telepathically with <hound's dialogue here>.

    In Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series, the telepathic communication between the main character (Vlad) and his Jhereg familiar is set off by using italics.

    Thus, I disagree with those who indicate out of hand that use of italics or other means to indicate telepathic communication is wrong or improper.

    In the end, I doubt an agent or publisher will reject a manuscript because the author chose to use italics for telepathic communication--or didn't. The publishing houses probably have guidelines or rules that they follow, but are flexible enough to bend those rules when it makes sense for a novel or series.
     
  15. Allan Paas
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    Something I've noticed very many, if not all, seem to misunderstand... Or if they don't then it is very poorly conveyed. Telepathic communication, from one mind to another, uses no actual words, or rather would use none. Where words come from? First in the process is perception of something, unless it's an independent thought. Then comes the feeling or emotion or whatever it is which is translated into words automatically, or the "emotion" is analyzed, consciously, one way and another till is clear what words to use to describe it correctly and precisely, and then uttered verbally, or through some other visual means. When it were conveyed telepathically then there'd be no practical need for the translation of those "emotions" into actual words. That which is already put into words is, in the mind, very short and very clear, I doubt more than a second or a few long. Words in comparison are very slow.
    For the reader to understand what is going on, putting it into actual, as if spoken, words, is understandable. But... If not somehow clarified how it actually would work in reality can and does miseducate the reader.
     
  16. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    I don't think that people will ever master a telepathy in therms of sending a message from one brain to another. It is naturally impossible, what they can do is to build a device to do this for them.

    You might look kind of stupid one day in the future.
     
  17. Talmay
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    I find italics just fine as an indication of the action without literally acknowledging it. It's repetitive and boring to constantly rehash the same information. As long as you avoid <insert text> (which I cannot stand) then you're good in my opinion. But I've also read stacks of fanfiction where this is the accepted norm, so take it as you will.
     
  18. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    'Telepathic' communication in my SF stories is basically subvocalised speech sent from one person to another through the computers built into their skulls. So yes, it does use words and I use italics for it. Normal dialogue quotes just seem wrong when only one person can hear it, particularly if those people are also talking to each other at the same time.

    And ultimately, there's no rule for this kind of thing, other than what works works.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sigh. That isn't true. There are specific uses for italics, and that isn't one of them.

    I should put that to music.
     
  20. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is that something that should be shared with the editors at Del Rey, Ace and Tor?
     
  21. .Mark
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    I just referred to one of my Orson Scott Card novels, and he uses both inequality signs (< and >) and nothing at all for telepathic conversations.

    Example of dialogue:

    <So it won't be easy for you after all. You have a price to pay, too.>

    Don't taunt me, said Ender silently. I'm entitled to feel regret.
     
  22. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Bingo. If you write a great story, no editor or reader is going to reject it because you use italics for telepathy; the editor might want you to change it before the book is published if they don't like that style, but it's a minor issue compared to getting a story to work in the first place.
     
  23. Allan Paas
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    That's not telepathy... It's like talking to someone using a phone... just saying. Simply a little more private. If the computer does not convert what is in the head into actual words then it's not words they would hear. Go ahead and try to say a single word without even slightly using your mouth or any of the correspondent parts, what you will find out is that all you can do is think about the word and what it looks like when written out. You cannot say a single word in your head, literally.
    If you read, silently, you still use parts of your mouth. Once you stop using them and then try to "read" you'll notice it takes a while longer, quite a while, to go through the text.
    I'm for italics myself. Verbal dialogue is not the same as nonverbal. And italics give definite distinction. You cannot confuse one for the other. Basically, your story, your rules. But be consistent throughout. As long as it makes sense it is okay. Flexibility is a good thing, not a bad thing. Be creative, as you should as a writer, but not only when it comes to the story, about writing itself too.
     
  24. thewordsmith
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    Actually, that's a good call. HP was, in fact, intended for a young adult audience. Even Rowling was taken by surprise at the adult audience her books garnered.

    I, too, was a precocious, overachieving child, cutting my teeth on the likes of Dickens, et al at a very tender age. But I don't go around waving a banner advising others of that fact because it is totally irrelevant in the real world. I learned through life to give those less fortunate more credit. If one is 'gifted' one tends to view things from a different perspective. That does not entitle one to be condescending to those potentially viewed as 'of lesser intelligence'. Such an attitude only serves to diminish the perceiver and the "smarts" of life experience can be ever so much more valuable than "book larnin'".

    So, too, as writers, we need to consider the reader through a different lens, as it were. While we may roll our eyes in wonder that someone may seem to totally miss something so apparently obvious, we must still consider that if a person is going to take the time to read our words, we should respect them enough to respect their intelligence, regardless of whether they can discuss higher physics and philosophy cogently.

    Given the contextual errors in your posts, I am assuming English is not your first language so it is possible there are, perhaps, cultural considerations at play here. Nonetheless, if you truly believe "readers are a simple breed" then perhaps attempting to write for such simple minds is a fools errand?
     
  25. Perplexity
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    I personally prefer italics
     

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