1. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Telepathic Dialogue?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Lyrical, Oct 8, 2016.

    In my WIP, I have characters who frequently use telepathic dialogue. I've seen this done in some published works as italics, and that's how I have it in my current draft, but I also know there are some very strong feelings about italics here and thought I might check to make sure. I don't want to make some rookie mistake that will turn a large number of readers (or publishers) away.

    I try to keep the amount of telepathic dialogue to short conversations, and reserve larger explanations for spoken dialogue so as not to have a large paragraph of italics. Is this okay to do, or should I not be using italics at all?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate italic thoughts--that is, internal monologue--with a fiery fiery passion. It's enough of an issue to make me refuse to read the book.

    I say that to give you context for my conclusion that I can live with italics for a modest amount of telepathic dialogue. If I were writing the book, I would search for some other solution, but I could live with it as a reader.
     
  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I also have a strong disdain for italics used ad nauseam. I've put books down because of pages of italics. That said, you said you're keeping those exchanges to a minimum. And there is a purpose for it (telepathy). So I can't say I'd have the same issue with this.

    That said, as ChickenFreak has said, think outside the box and see what you can come up with in terms of other solutions. Nothing is wrong with italics and a lot of people don't have issues with it, but if you can come up with something better, why not, right?
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    In the Animorphs books I remember telepathic dialog being enclosed in brackets instead of quotes. Would something like that work for you?
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The most important thing to consider isn't whether some people will 'hate' the method you choose, but whether you present the context of your telepathic dialogue clearly enough so non-hating readers can follow it. Keeping your readers on board with the story's development is the most important thing you can do.

    Do whatever it takes. Look at Terry Pratchett. He even uses different fonts for certain characters. (The character Death always speaks in all-caps, for example, LIKE THIS.) Folks who have an inborn hatred of 'fancy fontery' won't read Terry Pratchett ...their loss. Those of us who love Terry Pratchett are never in any doubt that Death is speaking, when we encounter these all-capped passages. Terry Pratchett makes a lot of use of different font styles for characters' speeches as well. He doesn't use a different font style for everybody, but certain characters get their 'own,' so to speak. It not only makes the dialogue easy to spot for certain characters, but it adds to the playful tone of his books as well. Even the concept of Death speaking in sonorous all caps is hilarious, and it's even more so when Death talks about trivial stuff, which he does often.

    I'm currently re-reading my favourite modern fantasy author, Joe Abercrombie. His First Law trilogy has a character, Glokta, whose dialogue passages nearly always contain an italicised thought portion. This emphasises that what Glokta says is usually the opposite of what he's actually thinking as he says it. The italics makes the distinction clear and easy to follow, without having to add 'he thought' all the time. Many of Abercrombie's other characters do the same thing, and it really works. The reader is never in any doubt about what is actually said and what is being thought.

    You could certainly try brackets or parentheses for your telepathic dialogue, but you'll need to be careful not to use these marks anywhere else where they'd cause confusion.

    Just try all sorts of things till you find what works best. Then go with it. Test it out on a few readers and get feedback and work from there.

    It's probably a good idea to consider how easy it will be to translate what you've done to a published medium, though. If you use all sorts of fancy fonts, you might find it difficult to submit your MS for agent consideration, etc. If their programme doesn't contain the same fonts, you could be in trouble. So maybe go for the simplest solution instead—italics, bolding, altered font size, or even a particular introductory word and an exit word that you can use consistently. Whatever it may be. Something that's easy to translate, but also can't be missed by the reader.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  6. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    As a reader I don't have a problem with some italic text. Personally I really struggle to read more than a line of all-capitals but can handle a few lines of italics. But if you're after another solution, how about using an alternative to speech marks, say, these things ~ (what are they, wavy dashes?).
     
  7. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Came in to say the same as @izzybot :D although it was the 'greater than/less than' symbols -- <Like this,> Sifunkle exampled. That fits well with @jannert 's caveat on it, as those symbols don't really come up outside of mathematics and shorthand (... as far as I know).

    I thought it worked very well for the series. It made the means of communication (telepathy) very clear, and it only threw me for a couple of pages or so before it seemed as natural as any other punctuation. Kinda made sense: a type of dialogue that doesn't exist in our own reality needed a type of punctuation not standard for our reality. It also provided iconography for them to market the series by -- if I ever see text enveloped in <> I immediately think of Animorphs to this day.

    Not that you should copy Animorphs directly; that's just an example that I found effective :) If there's no rule for what you want to do, make a new rule. @christinacantwrite 's ~ popped into my mind as the next most likely mark (I don't even know what that mark is or what it's for -- anyone? I use it as shorthand for 'approximately'...). I'm sure your word processor has a whole library of untapped symbols if you consider going this route!

    For what it's worth, I have nothing against small amounts of italics, although anything getting into paragraphs rather than sentences starts to chafe.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I never thought of the < and > symbols, but of course that might work really well. They exist in every font, don't they? And they are unlikely to be used in the text of the story, the way the (.... ) symbols are. Maybe if they are doubled or tripled, they would be more noticeable and less likely to be missed. <<< >>>. You don't want to use a signal that can easily be overlooked by the eye.
     
  9. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Well, this has been a lesson in creative problem solving. I'm embarassed to admit that I really only thought of italics, or traditional quoted dialogue. All your suggestions have shifted my approach to this issue.

    I read the animorphs series when I was a kid, and I remembered that they had telepathic though but for some reason I remembered it as italics. This opens up a new world of possibilities for what sort of identifiers I might use. My only regret is that I did't think to ask this question earlier, as I'm not 8 chapters in to my second draft and will have to back and change it all when I figure out which markers I want to use.

    "~" Isn't it called a tilde? Do I have that mixed up? Anyway, could be interesting, although internet-culture has appropriated it for its own strange usage, something to denote a tone of melodramatic significance or sarcasm. Not sure I could use it without reading all the dialogue in that same weird tone. I like < and > but of course I don't want to be too derivative. I'm going to go explore the various symbols at my disposal and return for some opinions.
     
  10. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Why?
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have seen the use of the double << and >> in several occasions for telepathic dialogue. These are just a borrow of guíllemet quotation marks from French.
     
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  12. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to use a lot of action tags in my dialogue anyway, so using a lot of italics a for several lines of secret dialogue – though my characters use a whistle code instead of telepathy – still gets broken up by the non-italicized descriptions.
     
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  13. Kilby Blades
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    Kilby Blades New Member

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    I'll offer an alternative view: I think the appropriateness of of telepathic dialogue has to be driven by the characters, not the author's preference for one form or other. There are PLENTY of real world situations in which people can't and don't talk out loud for a good reason. How many silent conversations have you had with a co-worker from across a conference room table noting how your boss is has stolen your idea again? What about conversations with people in your family? Is everything said over Thanksgiving dinner really spoken out loud? And how about individual relationships? I've been with my husband for nearly 15 years and we barely need to speak out loud to know what the other's thinking.

    It sounds to me like the OP and other respondents are skeptical of telepathic dialog because some people don't do it very well. Just because some people do it badly doesn't mean you have to, though. Telepathic dialog isn't categorically bad. Just like everything else in writing, good execution is good execution. If there is a legitimate reason for it to be there, it will be just fine.
     
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  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I beg to differ. Having read through the thread throughly, the question in play is not whether telepathic dialogue, in and of itself, is good/bad/indifferent, but instead the question is one of orthographic representation on the printed page. The question arises from a long history, in this topic and others, concerning the use of unusual or "non-standard" orthography. I don't have a pony in this particular race, so the divisiveness it engenders is genuinely beyond my ken, but the divisiveness has inarguably made itself known on many occasions.
     
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  15. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I have no issue with telepathic dialogue as a device. My narrative calls for it, as the characters who use it exclusively when do so when in non-human physical forms. I'm merely looking for a good way to differentiate between the spoken dialogue when they are humans, and the telepathy when they're not.

    Exactly. Well put. Before this place, I didn't know opinions about italicized text ran as deep as they do. Since italics never bothered me, I'd never considered they might be so off-putting to others.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've posted an alarming number of times on the Italics for Thoughts? thread. I searched the thread to find where I actually posted an opinion, rather than reacting, and I got bored before I found it. :) But I do have many many posts on the thread.
     
  17. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    I think it might be a tilde! Though I haven't a clue what it's official use is... like @Sifunkle I use it to mean approximately, sort of the words equivalent for the wavy equals sign used for numbers.

    I like the ~ because visually it fits, it's wavy and telepathy is sort of an out-of-this-world, wibbly-wobbly phenomenon. And the << reminds me of the way waves are depicted, you know like in the wi-fi symbol, so again, fits. (although as @Wreybies mentioned they are used as speech marks in some languages so this might cause confusion? not sure if the tilde is used for anything in other languages). Well that's how my mind works :D

    Whatever you come up with, the reader will probably get used to it quickly enough.

    This is an interesting thread!
     
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Some writers may want a way to show telepathic dialogue that isn't 'spoken' by two people in the same room, though.

    It can be relatively easy to show that two people are on the same wave length during a family meal or an incident at work or at a party. Just show what each of them are doing, or show how one of them interprets the non-verbal signs they're picking up. Something as simple as: During the middle of Jane's tirade, I glanced over at Tom. He made a face at me and rolled his eyes upward. He was right, of course. Jane's temper tantrums were getting to be a tiresome habit.

    However, if the POV character is 'hearing' something Tom says or thinks, when Tom is 200 miles away? And then replies? That's a bit more difficult. Lots of fantasy stories use this sort of event, though. If it only happens once, I suppose the writer could just tell the reader the POV character is 'hearing' these unspoken thoughts. But if this happens a lot, or if the unspoken thoughts are exchanged for several lines, then the writer probably needs to come up with some other way to portray it.
     

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