1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Telepathic dialogue

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Wreybies, Jul 22, 2008.

    I think I have used every symbol on the keyboard, and every manner of displaying telepathic dialogue that I can think of and I am happy with none of them. Consider the following:


    --I don’t want to go,-- said Mark.

    <I don’t want to go,> said Mark.

    I don’t want to go, said Mark.

    I don’t want to go,” said Mark.


    There is a heavy amount of telepathic dialogue in my story. It will be all over the place, so I need a method that can be used along with regular, vocal dialogue in a way that won’t confuse.

    Help? :redface:
     
  2. Flozzie
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    Flozzie Active Member

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    I would probably go with alternative number four. It cleary shows that a conversation is held, and I think the italics indicate that it's not a regular conversation.
     
  3. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    If I want to talk telepathically in my story, I do it like this, Jade said.

    So option three ;)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer to treat such dialogue exactly like spoken dialogue, and using context to distinguish them. Typesetting tricks look sloppy. Let the writing tell the story.
     
  5. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Itallics seems to be the best way. To me, at least.

    I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about, since I did this way back in the dark ages of my writing life, but when I wrote about telepathic characters, I would mix up options three and four a bit. I would use just itallics for the point of view character, since I always use itallics for thoughts anyway. But when someone was talking telepathically to him/her, I would use quotes and itallics on what that character was saying. That way, it was clearer that this was another person actually talking to him and not like his own thoughts. Here's an example.

    What the... The child froze, staring wide-eyed at what looked very much like a monster. What is this thing?

    "That," said the voice in his head, "would be me."

    Not the best example, but it works. I haven't had any telepathic characters in years, but if I ever do again, that's probably what I'll do. After using this method for so long, it just seems natural to me.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This was my original way of representing the telepathic dialogue. What made me not happy with it is that I also tend to give the occasional inner thought from a character, represented in the same way. I thought it would be confusing.

    This also seems the most logical way to represent the dialogue without distracting the reader with something visually out of the norm. I was worried about too many dialogue tags to indicate telepathy. My personal style of writing tends to avoid he said, she said tags when at all possible. Not a fan of them. I like to go right into a show (not tell) sentence to indicate what the speaker was doing during the dialogue.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Italics for internal dialogue (literal thoughts) is not standard. The preferred way to write internal dialogue is with no punctuation or font decoration, just like spoken dialogue without the quote marks. The Chicago Manual of Style does mention punctuating identically to spoken dialogue at the writer's discretion.

    Again. the textual context is what should indicate the manner of dialogue and the intended recipient.
     
  8. Thagryn-Sylrand
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    Thagryn-Sylrand Senior Member

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    I like using number 3 because I think quotes imply talking. Just me.
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wrey,

    I wrestled with the same issue in a recent MS and I solved it using the method Cog suggested. It reads great that way. At the first introduction of telepathy, I set the tone and from that point forward it was clear. If you do this, and then take the conversation "verbal", you need to add clarification to show the change.

    "I can't stay. What will happen to her if I leave?" Simon's thoughts formed deep inside Kelly's mind. They were as clear as if he spoke out loud. She responded, in kind.

    "I'll be okay, Simon. The Taskers would never harm us, you know that."

    (then, the telepathic dialog continues until you're ready to break out of it)

    ...Insulted by his accusation, Kelly yelled back, "I told you I would never break The Oath. How dare you question my integrity!"

    (now their conversation is vocal, as illustrated by the dialog tag)

    The tricky writing is when one person is using telepathy and the other is responding verbally...similar to multilingual people arguing in both languages, with one speaking Spanish and other responding in English.
     
  10. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    In Redemption Ark, by Alistair Reynolds, he does this:

    Skade's reply was terse. [I think that would be a bad idea, Clavian]
    why?
    [Because there are monkeys, or whatever this book is about again]

    So, he places incoming thoughts in [] and outgoing thoughts by the MC in itallics.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to cog!... he's right, as usual... i'd put him on our short list for sainthood, if there was such a thing...
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    look I have read a lot and whenever any kind of internal is depicted it is always Italics. To me this works well enough. If a character is an established telepath then people will know that he is talking to someone if not the character is not a telepath he is speaking internaly. Most books I have read with telepaths also treat telepathic speech like regular speech. If four telepaths are in a room and two are talking all four hear part of the convo or not. basically like idle chatter
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The general consensus seems to be to treat said telepathic dialogue as if it were regular dialogue and simply verbally mark it as such. There is a part of me that agrees with this, in that there should be nothing in the visual representation of the actual printed word which detracts the reader from the reading process.

    There should be nothing that pulls the reader out of the world one has created.

    For me, that is a rule.

    It just goes a bit against my style of narrative. I guess I am going to have to modify my style a smidge in order to allow for this important plot device.
     
  14. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Italics don't detract me from the reading process. :/ In fact, when I read things that are supposed to be thoughts or internal dialogue and they AREN'T italicized, THAT detracts me from the reading process, because it jars me into thinking that the (uninvolved) narrator is suddenly butting into the story, and I have to stop reading to think, "No, he isn't, that's the character thinking."

    Or should I say, No, he isn't?

    I've seen published works that employ italics, and ones that don't, so apparently the "standard" isn't universally applied. (In fact I think I've seen more works that use italics, but I couldn't say, maybe that's just my bias speaking.) I can't say that I've seen published works that employ special characters like asterisks or brackets or anything. THOSE I would find distracting and odd.

    I always use italics whether it's telepathy or just personal thoughts. The context of their usage, like with quoted/spoken dialogue, makes it clear which it is. Without italics or even quotes, the reader (myself, at least) has to stop and think over the context to figure out that this isn't simple narration. But maybe that's just me. *shrug*

    ETA: I think I misunderstood the last post a bit, but I still stand by italics rather than quotes. Quotes smack of spoken dialogue to me. But at least they set off the dialogue from the narration in some way, which a lack of formatting wouldn't do.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The problem in that case is poor writing, not the lack of italics. The writing should not rely on typography for clarity.

    Whether or not to italicize inner dialogue is a publication choice. One publisher may choose to use it, another may not. The writer should never depend on tricks of typography to communicate the meaning.
     
  16. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just read Eldest (by Christopher Palini), and i'm pretty certain all the conversations spoker between the Eragon Saphia (boy and dragon) were all done in italic's without the "etc"s like normal talk. Though i dont know if this is the norm or not. (this is the only comparison that comes to mind right now).

    Agreed.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Revised question

    I agree that type-set trickery is a bit sophomoric. Probably the reason I was unhappy with anything I came up with in that venue. It just looks hokey. So, let us assume that I am going to go with displaying the telepathic dialogue just like regular dialogue and mark it off within the context of the narrative.

    There are two things I am trying to avoid with this method:

    Repetition

    In Wayne Barlowe’s Expedition, the author creates a richly illustrated safari on an alien planet. Speculative evolution abounds, but the author is a graphic artist, not a writer. Every single time he introduces a new life form he gives the name and then says, for so I named it. Every. Single. Time.

    At first it was annoying. Really? I thought the Daggerwrist simply came up to you and said, “Hello, chap. I’m a Daggerwrist. Mind if I run you through with my oh-so-pointy front appendage?”

    Then it was funny. Every time the phrase came by, I would belt it out in a burlesque, posh, Victorian accent. The phrasing of for so I named it is distinctly not American. The MC is on a solo safari in the book and I got the image of a posh Victorian, British gent in deepest, darkest Africa.

    Then it was annoying again. Enough, already. We get it! You named every freagin’ creature. Duh!

    A painful flaw in an otherwise awesome book. It pulled me out every time. I don't use dialogue tags very much and I am worried about being overly repetative in the marking off of telepathic dialogue vs vocal dialogue.


    Corniness

    I loved the old sci-fi show The Tomorrow People, but I always cringed when they used the word jaunt for teleportation. It was hokey, campy, corny. I want very much to avoid the creation of novel verbiage to be used by those who have psychic gifts.

    Help?
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    at 70, and a lifelong voracious/constant reader, i'm sure i've read much, much more than you have and i can therefore state with absolute certainty, that good writers do not 'always' [if ever] rely on italics for internal dialog!

    cog puts an 'amen' on that with:

     
  19. WhoWatchesTheWatchmen?
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    WhoWatchesTheWatchmen? Member

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    Telepathy should be displayed with italics like this, said the mentor cheerfully.

    Number 3 is where I stand.
     
  20. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I don't think anybody really relies on italics for thoughts and such. It's more like a technique to let readers know without a doubt, "Oh, he's thinking right now." I've seen books that would say something like...

    It's the girl from before, Sam thought.

    Obviously, Sam is thinking right there. But the way I've seen it many times, the author will simply give the general idea of what the character is thinking in plain type, but still resort to using italics when the time is right for verbatim internal dialogue. So the general idea could have been "It's the girl from before," but what Sam could actually be thinking is "It's her!"

    I hope that makes sense. I'm not very good at explaining things like this. :confused:
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The author is still using the italics as a crutch, in that case.

    If the reader can't clearly distinguish the internal dialogue when the italics are removed, then the author has relied on the italics to expose the dialogue.

    As a writer, typesetting is not your job, and in this case using a typographic convention as a writing aid can weaken your writing.

    But suppose, for the sake of argument, that you want to mark all the internal dialogue for easy conversion if the publisher wishes to italicize internal dialogue. I do, in fact, have a character format style in my Word template for manuscripts that is named Internal dialogue. I mark all internal dialogue with this style, which I normally leave identical to style Normal. In a few seconds, I can change it to display all Internal dialogue in italics, or in bold underlined red text if I wish. That makes it easy to proofread that I have marked all the internal dialogue with this style. But normally, I leave it as unadorned text, so I can be suer my writing is not leaning on the italics crutch.

    That covers all my bases without allowing me to get lazy with my dialogue.
     
  22. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I suppose. But in all honesty, I don't see why it's such a bad thing. Isn't it pretty much the same as wrapping spoken words in quotes to clarify that someone is saying something? The only real difference I can see is that one way is spoken aloud by the characters while the other is not.

    Then again, I suppose I'm getting more into the topic of private thoughts than telepathy. Didn't even realize it. :p My bad.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Wrapping spoken dialogue in quotes is punctuation. It's not fiddling with fonts and font characteristics.

    Punctuation is the writer's responsibility, and for the most part, the rules are reasonably well-defined.

    Whether it's telepathy, internal dialogue, spoken words, or a conversation carried out by wig-wagging semaphore flags, it's still dialogue. Quoting is always a permitted option. For internal dialogue, the second option is to punctuate it exactly like common external dialogue but without the quote marks.

    It is the writer's responsibility to make clear both the content and the means oif transmission of all dialogue in the writing, not in the typesetting. Writing includes the wording and the punctuation.
     
  24. topper
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    Completely off-topic here, but books that don't use quotation marks around dialougue drive me bonkers!
    I, too, shall put my vote with Cogito, although I would say if telepathic communication is the norm rather than speaking and used with lots and lots of characters, clarity would become a real issue.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what books would those be?
     

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