Dialogue where only one person speaks, the other thinks without words and is able to convey the idea of her thoughts

AllanR

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This is from well into my work in progress. The speaker only appears here, the character Dachun is well established. I'm finding getting the pacing hard

“I'm sorry I missed the ceremony.” He studied her with care. “That's a nice suit they gave you, and how about the AI?” He showed her to a seat and took a chair across the table. A strong smile crossed his face, it had been ten years since they'd been together. “So, my little sister is an academy graduate.”

“What's it like to have two? Is the academy one much different? How was the process? Did it hurt? Did anyone find out it's your second?” The calm of his hand contrasted the flurry of questions as he poured two drinks. “I'm tempted by the idea myself.” He pushed one of the drinks toward Dachun and raised the other to his nose, closed his eyes, and slowly sniffed. “Mmmm.” He swirled a sip of the liquid in his mouth, savouring the flavour. The drink, the restaurant, and his outfit, were the finest of contemporary Ming.

“What do you mean you taught it to not use words? Don't be afraid of the voice Chunchun. It's a gift.”

He winced at her response.

“I remember,” he said. “I never thought mine was a bully Chunchun, not even when I was a child. I got along with it right from the start.” He pushed back on his chair, rigid. “Won't you have some?” He gestured to the drink.

Dachun refused.

“Haha.” His laughter was nervous. “For an Atheist your such a Buddhist.” He topped his drink and had another sip.

“Who cares about historical Buddhism?”

“We have to talk about your future.”

“Yes, that is fine Chunchun, but you know I'm not talking about that.” He crossed his arms and moved his head slightly forward, penetrating eyes searched for a way in.

“You did have a little help.”

“The Collective offers great latitude.”

He shook his head violently, as if he could negate each of her rebuffs as they came.

Dachun refused.

“You were born into it,” was his reply. He kept trying to read her. She was like a stone.

“Chunchun, once I accepted and confirmed, things became very good for me.”

“No, it is not terrible. We have a strong code of honour.” He stood and bolted what remained in his glass.

“Of course we will honour your choice. But the Collective has expectations.”

“As your older brother, I recommend you change your attitude. Life could become very difficult.
 
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One reference I have found useful is from one of Brandon Sanderson's lectures (about 15 minutes):

The key things I latched onto were that the reader will be in either dialog mode or description mode and to avoid mixing the two with a lot of beats (inline description with a line of dialog). I tend to take that to the extreme; you will need to find your own preferred balance.

Back to the title line question, I feel dialog mode can be maintained by having one character speaking alternating with one thinking or briefly reacting.
 
If I am reading this correct you have one character's dialogue here. Is that correct?
The reason I ask is that there is a convention for dialogue that spans paragraphs and you have a lot of that and the fact of one speaker might be clear if you use that effectively. Right now you are using a style of dialogue that defeats and defies convention.

Spanning dialogue across paragraphs is done by leaving off the quote marks at the end of the paragraph until you reach a point where the dialogue ends in either narrative in the present paragraph or narrative in the following paragraph. At that point you include the ending quote mark. Each new(subsequent)paragraph of dialogue has the beginning quote mark.

it would look like this.
start--::

“I'm sorry I missed the ceremony.” He studied her with care. “That's a nice suit they gave you, and how about the AI?” He showed her to a seat and took a chair across the table. A strong smile crossed his face, it had been ten years since they'd been together. “So, my little sister is an academy graduate.

“What's it like to have two? Is the academy one much different? How was the process? Did it hurt? Did anyone find out it's your second?” The calm of his hand contrasted the flurry of questions as he poured two drinks. “I'm tempted by the idea myself.” He pushed one of the drinks toward Dachun and raised the other to his nose, closed his eyes, and slowly sniffed. “Mmmm.” He swirled a sip of the liquid in his mouth, savouring the flavour. The drink, the restaurant, and his outfit, were the finest of contemporary Ming.

“What do you mean you taught it to not use words? Don't be afraid of the voice Chunchun. It's a gift.”

He winced at her response.

“I remember,” he said. “I never thought mine was a bully Chunchun, not even when I was a child. I got along with it right from the start.” He pushed back on his chair, rigid. “Won't you have some?” He gestured to the drink.

Dachun refused.

“Haha.” His laughter was nervous. “For an Atheist your such a Buddhist.” He topped his drink and had another sip.

“Who cares about historical Buddhism?

“We have to talk about your future.

“Yes, that is fine Chunchun, but you know I'm not talking about that.” He crossed his arms and moved his head slightly forward, penetrating eyes searched for a way in.

“You did have a little help.

“The Collective offers great latitude.”

He shook his head violently, as if he could negate each of her rebuffs as they came.

Dachun refused.

“You were born into it,” was his reply. He kept trying to read her. She was like a stone.

“Chunchun, once I accepted and confirmed, things became very good for me.

“No, it is not terrible. We have a strong code of honour.” He stood and bolted what remained in his glass.

“Of course we will honour your choice. But the Collective has expectations.

“As your older brother, I recommend you change your attitude. Life could become very difficult."

::--end

This technique puts a lot of extra weight on the character with the dialogue and you might have to watch for where it might appear that you character is being used to do info-dump. What I mean by that is that you have to watch for where they might not necessarily give back so much information if the conversation is between just the two--whereas if the information is for other people listening in then there would be some justification for repeating everything that is heard from the other mind.
 
you have one character's dialogue here. Is that correct?
Yes and no. Only one person is speaking out loud, the other responds, without words, in a way that the first person understands.

The seperate paragraphs are to indicate the time delay as he is getting responses. Sort of like if your watching a dialogue where the other person is on the telephone.
 
To me, it felt like we were getting one half of the conversation. If this scene is being written from the man's perspective, I don't see why there are blank spaces where she responds in whatever way she responds. If he can "hear" what she's saying, then the reader should, in my opinion, be privy to that information as well because we are getting this scene from his perspective.

This is kind of weird, but what came to my mind as an example worth looking at is Tuesdays with Morrie. In many of the conversations, Mitch summarizes his own part then quotes what Morrie replied. (i.e.-"I asked him what he meant by that. "Well, there are a lot of people who aren't happy," Morrie said.") In that book, the device works well to differentiate the two speakers while still making it feel like they're having a conversation.

For my taste, I would have wanted you to describe or summarize the way Dachun communicates to make the conversation feel less one-sided. I think there are a number of different techniques (physical description [She rolled her eyes as she refused], summarization [She didn't seem to like where he was taking the conversation], his interpretation [She was being stubborn], etc.) that you could try until you find something you like.
 
You also need to have her mouthing, "Mary had a little lamb."

I think that I understand what you are trying to do that it requires that the reader not see her thoughts.
If I'm right his method is not an absolute science and so he gets more impressions than words and has to interpret those so at best her thoughts might be scattered or maybe she really is thinking "Mary had a little lamb.".

I think that the separate paragraphs are enough to give pauses and you really need to stick to standard conventions on dialogue from one person across several paragraphs because the way you have it now it looks like at least two people are talking when you keep telling us that she isn't. Someone is going to think she is talking.
 
I think that the separate paragraphs are enough to give pauses and you really need to stick to standard conventions on dialogue from one person across several paragraphs because the way you have it now it looks like at least two people are talking when you keep telling us that she isn't. Someone is going to think she is talking.
Thanks, I'll work that and add in a few descriptions of her and her body language as well.
he gets more impressions than words and has to interpret those
Yea, this is whats going on. My earlier telephone analogy fails as the person is right there and should be described at least somewhat.
 
I feel this is an interesting idea, but it may be a little vague for the reader to parse out. For me, I think it would help to provide some sort of back and forth flow to simulate true dialog. I can suggest three approaches.

1) If this is supposed to be a telepathic style communication, go inside the main speaker's head and report the female's responses. The first tag could be something like, 'She responded inside his head' and then the rest could be expressed as if it was verbalized dialog.

2) If the female character is not communicating back to the male speaker, then in lieu of her responses, provide an action or a response or even a non-response. 'She stared back.' She frowned.' 'She leaned back.' 'She said nothing.' etc.

3) If the female is comatose, then describe her and the equipment around her. 'Her eyes remained closed.' "Her pale face did not move.' 'The heart monitor continued to beep, neither faster nor slower.'

The idea is to meet the reader's expectation of a back and forth for dialog.
 
Am I right in thinking that the characters are Chinese in ethnicity? is Chunchun meant to be her name (春春)and Dachun an honorific (Big Chun - 大春)? Or is Dachun her name and Chunchun is mean to be diminutive? If it's the former, Da (Big) doesn't seem right as an honorific for a woman, and if it's the latter, as far as I understand Chinese don't reduplicate names to show affection - but would more usually use 小 - so it would be Xiaochun (小春). Might be worth checking that.

Anyway, if this is the case, a western audience, unfamiliar with this convention, might possibly get confused when the names are inconsistent.

The mention of AI with "contemporary" Ming seems anachronistic.

As an exercise, it's an interesting idea, but if the idea is the Dachun is telepathic then you should probably just write a conversation using a different form of dialogue tag for her, or if her contribution is beyond words then describe how he understands the notion she is projecting in terms of his senses (such as an image, an emotion or tactile sensation).

If Dachun is mute, then it might be better to, as Wayne mentioned, show how she uses her body language to communicate.

“I'm sorry I missed the ceremony.” He studied her with care. “That's a nice suit they gave you, and how about the AI?” He showed her to a seat and took a chair across the table. A strong smile[1] crossed his face, it had been ten years since they'd been together. “So, my little sister is an academy graduate.

“What's it like to have two? Is the academy one much different? How was the process? Did it hurt? Did anyone find out it's your second?” [2] The calm of his hand contrasted the flurry of questions as he poured two drinks. “I'm tempted by the idea myself.” He pushed one of the drinks toward Dachun and raised the other to his nose, closed his eyes, and slowly sniffed. “Mmmm.” He swirled a sip of the liquid in his mouth, savouring the flavour. The drink, the restaurant, and his outfit, were the finest of contemporary Ming.

“What do you mean you taught it to not use words? Don't be afraid of the voice Chunchun. It's a gift.”

He winced at her response. [3]

“I remember,” he said. “I never thought mine was a bully Chunchun, not even when I was a child. I got along with it right from the start.” He pushed back on his chair, rigid. “Won't you have some?” He gestured to the drink.

Dachun refused. [4]

“Haha.” His laughter was nervous. “For an Atheist your [5] such a Buddhist.” He topped his drink and had another sip.

“Who cares about historical Buddhism?

“We have to talk about your future.

“Yes, that is fine Chunchun, but you know I'm not talking about that.” He crossed his arms and moved his head slightly forward, penetrating eyes searched for a way in.

“You did have a little help.

“The Collective offers great latitude.”

He shook his head violently, as if he could negate each of her rebuffs as they came.

Dachun refused. [5]

“You were born into it,” was his reply. He kept trying to read her. She was like a stone.

“Chunchun, once I accepted and confirmed, things became very good for me.

“No, it is not terrible. We have a strong code of honour.” He stood and bolted what remained in his glass.

“Of course we will honour your choice. But the Collective has expectations.

“As your older brother, I recommend you change your attitude. Life could become very difficult."

[1] I don't think you need "Strong" here - either use a different noun (a smirk, a grin, a widemouthed smile) - strong seems like an unnatural adverb.

[2] It's very difficult to follow the conversation when the reader doesn't know what you're referring to - let alone when there are a number of questions at once that aren't answered.

[3] Without an explicit response, wincing seems strange. Better to describe the response and then just describe him wincing.

[4] How did she refuse? Shake her head? Hold up her hand? Project an image into his head?

[5] It's unclear what Dachun is refusing here.
 
Dachun her name and Chunchun is mean to be diminutive? If it's the former, Da (Big) doesn't seem right as an honorific for a woman, and if it's the latter, as far as I understand Chinese don't reduplicate names to show affection - but would more usually use 小 - so it would be Xiaochun (小春). Might be worth checking that.
Yes. Thanks, I'll look into that. It's supposed to be a diminutive that shows affection. Would being Singapore Chinese change that?

The mention of AI with "contemporary" Ming seems anachronistic
Probably I should use Neo-Ming to distinguish from the historic.

Thanks again, great to get perspective on what stumbles and prevents flow.
 
Yes. Thanks, I'll look into that. It's supposed to be a diminutive that shows affection. Would being Singapore Chinese change that?

Singaporean's do use reduplication on names:

https://www.sdu.dk/~/media/Files/Om...ngspublikationer/Rask/Rask 19/J Wong 4785.pdf

Singaporeans have a distinctive way of speaking English - Singlish - which is particularly rich and expressive - and gives you good opportunity for authentic dialogue. The chances are a brother speaking to his sister is more likely to lapse into less formal speech patterns.


 
I'm assuming this is a conversation between two etities.

the problem is if this is just between two people then there wouldn't be any "speech" It would be odd if a mind reader had to have the readee speak words to get that side of the conversation. Surely it would all be in both their heads which is a nightmare to convey.

OK italics will help, but having one character talk to an empty room would just be odd (I know it's been done by others, but it is odd)

One way, is to have a third person in the scene.

That way your Talkee could converse perfectly normally about the weather, the price of fish or the dangers of not manning the battlements. While at the same time the Mindee could be interjecting ideas without the third persons kowledge.

"Lord Groopenhurter, welcome. Please come in and sit down" said the Prince. "God, I hope he's changed his sock from last time he visited. We had to disinfect the whole castle last time."

"Nevermind that, just get him to reveal where he's keeping Annie"
Prutels projected.

"Groopenhurter, may I call you that, pray tell what detergent you are using now, for I detect no odour from your feet."

"What the hell are you playing at. Get back to the subject of Annie"

"Dare I say, that's a fine looking pair of boots you're wearing," continued the Prince. "I need to get his confidence."




Once you can establish the to and fro of the relationship it should be possible to continue with the odd occasional reference to who's thinking what, much like in normal speech passages.

But I think italics are essential for thought passages.

Hope I helped
 
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Singaporean's do use reduplication on names:
I tracked down an acquaintance who is a Singapore Mandarin speaker. He said the reduplication only works if they are young, and not as an adult. He said Xiao chun could work as long as the Da comes from another character other than big. He also said the Da should be other than big since the character is female.
Thanks for setting me on the path to learn about naming conventions!
 
To add to what was said above, I prefer italics for any kind of silent thought, whether internal or communicated telepathically or whatever. It's easy to make a clear distinction that way, and works for me a bit like Speech Bubble vs. Thought Bubble in comics. I sometimes also use italics to indicate whispers or loud shouts, too.
 
I dont know if this is the right way of doing things, but i have a character that is talking to a voice in his head. The way Im doing it is his thoughts are in italics, then when he starts to hear the voice she is in bold italics. When she starts she got one or two lines and i give some kind of explanation. The reasoning behind the use of bold italics is two things. One as a person who has experienced pyschosis, the voices can be louder than your own thoughts. A almost all powerful voice this is why many believe them to be god or spirits. Two there is only Simon and her voice so the use of non bold and bold makes their conversations super easy to write. When your hearing a voice in your head for real, there is no actions or movement its just you and another person (Many sometimes but i dont do that in my writing) They would be no other way to avoid dialog tags or avoid confusion. What i get with my method is straight up conversation without opportunity for confusion.
 
Also most people with pyschosis including myself, begin by responding to the voices by talking, and one day realize you can just think a response. I would consider doing that to avoid confusion.
 
I tracked down an acquaintance who is a Singapore Mandarin speaker. He said the reduplication only works if they are young, and not as an adult. He said Xiao chun could work as long as the Da comes from another character other than big. He also said the Da should be other than big since the character is female.
Thanks for setting me on the path to learn about naming conventions!
From what I gather, that's not the only context: think Panda Diplomacy! But the connotations do seem to be sufficiently affectionate or cutesy-cute that using it in the "wrong" way would readily tip over into belittling, or offensively over-familiar. (Just watched a BBC4 documentary featuring Maya Angelou channeling her inner Schwabian housewife and tearing strips off a small child for addressing her by her first name! -- followed by an actor reporting almost the exact opposite sort of exchange with her. YMMV.) But I assume your setting is a SF/F one, so that raises the question of whether the linguistic conventions are exactly the same as the RW present. Which presumably they won't be, but your call as to how boldly you want to extrapolate.
 
For an Atheist your such a Buddhist

For an Atheist YOU'RE such a Buddhist.

You're = you are.
Your = possessive case of you.

EG - Your Buddhist altar is magnificent. You're obviously serious about your dharma practice.
 

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