How to write telepathic speech?

reddishbird

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Hi all, perhaps you can give me some pointers?
I'm writing a fantasy novel in first person, with inner thoughts and telepathic speech. I have used italics for this last, but I'm wondering if there is another or possibly better way to do this? I would be glad to hear your advice and opinions as a newbie here.
 

The Judge

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I've always used italics for the telepathic speech, but I'm not a big user of direct thought -- eg "She looked round the corner for him. There he is!" -- which also usually involves italics, as I've done there, so for me there's little or no conflict between the two.

If you're using a lot of direct thought (though is it necessary if you're writing in first person?) then I'd suggest keeping plain italics for that and then signal the telepathy with some other distinguishing marks other than quotation marks/inverted commas, such a long dash (which I can't create here so instead I've used two hyphens) and then you can use italics or not, as you see fit eg

She paused at the corner.​
-- Are you there, Tom?
-- Yes, I'm here.

As long as you make it clear the first time you use the telepathy what it is, so the reader knows it's not ordinary speech -- and you don't go all fancy/experimental with no quotation marks anywhere! -- and thereafter you're consistent, you'll be fine.

That help?
 

HareBrain

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What I've used is to have all telepathic speech in italics, but use an em-dash as an opening "quote mark" for the non-MC speaker, and straight italics for the MC, e.g:

***

He placed it leaning against one edge of the recess so it was upright, and sat cross-legged facing it.

—I’ll go deeper now. Meditate through the surface to the corrupted place beyond. I’ll try to add my power to yours, and subconsciously guide you.

Right.


He felt Simeon’s presence fade from the base of his skull, sinking away into the secret depths of his mind.

***

If you have several speakers, or you need to differentiate the MC's telepathic speech from his other inner thoughts, you could try different opening marks, like << or # etc.

ETA: nooo, pipped by TJ! I'm slacking. And on my birthday!
 

reddishbird

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Thank you both - you've given me food for thought. It's a dilemma as aI'm using a fair bit of telepathic speech, but tend to write inner thoughts
in my usual font. I think I'll have to mull it over a bit more :)
 

Parson

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I've on occasion run into telepathic speech handled like an understanding rather than words. "Nora felt Jim's insistent pull toward the third door. There was no doubt where he was confined." Maybe that won't work for what you are attempting but it does have the plus of a more extra-sensory exploration.
 

Biskit

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Depending on how you are presenting these inner thoughts, I would just use italics and either context or paragraphs to make it clear. Here's a quick-and-dirty example of one of mine that I just lifted, paragraphs as shown, commentary in dodgy blue:


“Right. Wow. How many banes are there in total?” Come on Nyka, my official support question for the week. How many banes exist?
(So, that's spoken dialogue from my narrator to a character called Neil, and then an "aside" question to his "inner demon" Nyka.
Nyka didn’t answer, but Neil did,
“Don’t know for certain. Billions, maybe. More than I can ever use.”
Crap.
(Direct self-quote from the narrator to the reader, which I think is clear in context)
Nyka? Anything to add?
(And then internal dialogue to his inner demon.)
That’s not a fair question. It’s tricky. What the idiot mortal said. Probably. Don’t know for certain. Add some zeroes.
(And that's the response from Nyka, which is almost obvious from the context, and in fact would be really obvious given the rest of the book because Nyka calls every non-demon "idiot mortal")
 

Dave

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On the role-playing website where I'm a member, the convention for thoughts (telepathic or otherwise) is to use asterisks in place of quotes. That would solve your problem of wondering who it was that was doing the thinking. For example,

*Can she really hear my thoughts?* thought Alexa.

"Yes, I can!" replied Cortana.

*Well, she can't hear mine,* thought Echo.
 

Don

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*Can she really hear my thoughts?* thought Alexa.

"Yes, I can!" replied Cortana.

*Well, she can't hear mine,* thought Echo.

Interesting technique. For what it's worth, here's how Healer by F Paul Wilson depicts internal dialog between a symbiote named Pard its host:

"I'm sorry, Anthon," the Duke said in a milder tone. "I know he's a friend of yours, but the godling must come before the mercenary."

("I have a pretty good idea of the nature of this godling,") Pard said as Dalt/Racso was carried upstairs.

The brain? I was thinking that, too. But how would the brain communicate with these people? The prototype wasn't set up for it.
 

Pyan

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I'd agree, dashes (but I'd put one at both ends of the communication) or asterisks. Sufficiently different from speech marks to be obviously not spoken. The trouble with italics is that they can be mistaken for emphasis.

-Know what I mean?-
 

reddishbird

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Thanks all, you've given me a lot of food for thought - I like the idea of asterisks and dashes, but I will also consult The Chrysalids if I can find my copy. (Too many books!)
I've on occasion run into telepathic speech handled like an understanding rather than words. "Nora felt Jim's insistent pull toward the third door. There was no doubt where he was confined." Maybe that won't work for what you are attempting but it does have the plus of a more extra-sensory exploration.
Thanks, that's helpful.
 

reddishbird

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Depending on how you are presenting these inner thoughts, I would just use italics and either context or paragraphs to make it clear. Here's a quick-and-dirty example of one of mine that I just lifted, paragraphs as shown, commentary in dodgy blue:


“Right. Wow. How many banes are there in total?” Come on Nyka, my official support question for the week. How many banes exist?
(So, that's spoken dialogue from my narrator to a character called Neil, and then an "aside" question to his "inner demon" Nyka.
Nyka didn’t answer, but Neil did,
“Don’t know for certain. Billions, maybe. More than I can ever use.”
Crap.
(Direct self-quote from the narrator to the reader, which I think is clear in context)
Nyka? Anything to add?
(And then internal dialogue to his inner demon.)
That’s not a fair question. It’s tricky. What the idiot mortal said. Probably. Don’t know for certain. Add some zeroes.
(And that's the response from Nyka, which is almost obvious from the context, and in fact would be really obvious given the rest of the book because Nyka calls every non-demon "idiot mortal")
Thank you, this works! Why is the blue dodgy? And may I ask what font is this in?
 

reddishbird

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On the role-playing website where I'm a member, the convention for thoughts (telepathic or otherwise) is to use asterisks in place of quotes. That would solve your problem of wondering who it was that was doing the thinking. For example,

*Can she really hear my thoughts?* thought Alexa.

"Yes, I can!" replied Cortana.

*Well, she can't hear mine,* thought Echo.
Thanks, I've never seen this convention before:)
 

reddishbird

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I'd agree, dashes (but I'd put one at both ends of the communication) or asterisks. Sufficiently different from speech marks to be obviously not spoken. The trouble with italics is that they can be mistaken for emphasis.

-Know what I mean?-
-Thanks, I see what you mean- but what if you want to put a question mark at the end?
 

Pyan

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Just tuck it inside the last dash, I suppose - same with an exclamation point:

-Thanks, I see what you mean- but what if you want to put a question mark at the end?-
-Thanks, I see what you mean- but I needed to put an exclamation point at the end!-
 

Biskit

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Thank you, this works! Why is the blue dodgy? And may I ask what font is this in?
Well, it's sort of blue, with a bit of a drift towards purple, and seems to change with the room lighting. If I was writing as my character I would assume my inner demon was playing with my eyesight. :giggle:

The font is whatever Chrons defaults to. The original (lifted out of my word processor file of Hell of a Bite) was some variation on a theme of Times New Roman, but pasting into Chrons overrode that.

Fonts are a tricky business. From long habit I tend to use Times Roman-type serif fonts which supposedly read better printed, whilst for viewing on a screen, the sans serif fonts are supposed to be easier to read. All my books are purely ebook at present, so the ebook reader (or it's user) will dictate the font, which is something to consider if you intend to self-publish. You can try to force fonts in ebooks, but in general the recommendation is to avoid doing things like that - complex formatting (other than bold/italic/underline) does not necessarily translate cleanly into ebooks. If you go hunting on Chrons you will find numerous threads on the topic.
 

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