Best Way to Style Telepathic Communication

 

I am working on a novella involving telepaths and am trying to figure out the best way to convey telepathic communication. I know using too much italics will distract/disrupt the reader, so I am coming here for advice! I am using curly brackets right now { }, and I'm wondering if it is too bland--too easy to miss that it is someone speaking telepathically to someone else.

 

Example (not an actual quote from my story):

 

{You need to get moving,} James shot through mindspeak. I can't believe we are stuck here like this. 

 

"I know!" Amy snapped out loud. 

 

{Don't do that again,} his mind hissed. {You know more than anyone that we are being tracked. If they find us here...I don't need to remind you of what will happen to us.} I can't believe she is acting like this! She's letting her fear get the best of her. Why can't she just remain calm? Did I pick the wrong person to trust? James shifted and peered over the ledge. A uniformed officer had stopped in the courtyard below. 

 

{I'm sorry. I just-}

 

{We need to get out of here now!}

 

Basically, I need to know if it stands out enough, or if there is a better way to go about this. I made up a paragraph where the guy was thinking a lot on purpose to show what it looks like in contrast to someone thinking to him/herself. 

 

Any feedback on styles is most appreciated! 

Comments

  • Usually there's no marks of any kind to denote it. The clue is it sounds like 'talking' and you are saying when they are.

     

    You need to get moving, James shot through mindspeak. I can't believe we are stuck here like this. 

     

    I know! Amy snapped out loud.

     

     

    I have to admit I often change how I do thoughts.

     

    She has of course heard of slave-trafficking. But aren't they normally young girls? Or young anyway. She thinks.

     

    Or I use " and just make it obviously that they are thoughts.

     

     

     

  • Regarding brackets vs italics, I think you do need to do something to set telepathic speech apart. If for no other reason than that you set normally spoken speech apart (by using quotation marks).

     

    Whatever you do, be consistent about it. That's probably the most important thing.

     

    By the way, how does a mind "hiss"?

  • Just think, 'hiss'   Smiley Happy 

  • Yours is a dialogue with streams of consciousness in italics. You should use quote-unquote.

    For instance :

    "[Leave this station ASAP. It's swarming with terrorists]," he warned.

    "Oh, my God!", she cried out loud. What on earth am I doing here?

     

  • Certainly, consistency is a requirement. I would also opine that the telepathic portions be immediately and unmistakably obvious, at a glance and not rely soley on a single or pair of characters that are not conventionally used for that. For that reason I would lean toward using italics. Robert Heinlein used italics for that purpose in one or more of his stories and it worked quite well. For me, anyway, that establishes a precedent. 

  • My suggestion would be something like this:

     

    You need to get moving, James shot through mindspeak. I can't believe we are stuck here like this, he thought.

     

    "I know!" Amy snapped out loud. 

     

    Don't do that again, his mind hissed. You know more than anyone that we are being tracked. If they find us here...I don't need to remind you of what will happen to us.

     

    He couldn't believe she was acting like this! She was letting her fear get the best of her. Why can't she just remain calm? Did he pick the wrong person to trust? James shifted and peered over the ledge. A uniformed officer had stopped in the courtyard below. 

     

    I'm sorry. I just --

     

    We need to get out of here now!

     

    To make a long explanation short, I would use italics to indicate a thought that is transmitted, and leave private thoughts in plain text. This will require a bit more identification of thoughts, but once the reader gets the idea that he is inside James' head already, the plain text will convey the right idea. Red alterations are mine.

  • I always used to use italics for all speech (it can still be seen in some of my earlier books) counting thoughts as 'speaking' to oneself also, but I only did it because it made it easier to see it while writing. Sometimes I do use " even for thoughts.

     

    Lilium is startled once, or is it thrice? more. She had read his mind! She is not too sure though.

    “Just my imagination” she thinks.

    He breathes out a - “pardon? What is?”

    Again just in her mind she ‘says’ in a ‘whisper’ - “did he ‘hear’ my thoughts? No way!”

    But he had. Well, no, that’s not exactly the truth, that time she had projected her thoughts.

    Putting this to one side for future consideration, she says sotto voice - “you’re welcome.”

     

    Most writers don't seem to use anything to denote thoughts, they just make it obviously in the text.

     

    I fancy a pint, thinks John.

     

    As to telepathy I would possibly say >

     

    I fancy a pint, projects John to Fred.

     

    Perhaps we should set a trend for using some marker?

     

    ^I fancy a pint,^  thinks John.

  • I want to thank everyone for their advice and input! I am pouring through everyone's ideas and am going to tinker around a bit with my story.

     

    So what I am getting is to make it consistant and make it obvious that the character is thinking it to the other person. The reason why I was concerned about the overuse of italics is that I had someone read my story, and that was a complaint. 

     

    @kevinlomas Thank you for that example!

     

    @Skoob_Ym I like your take on it with the present tense and straight brackets. 

     

    @Ron Miller It is exactly as Kevin says. Just think "hiss!" You know how you have angry thoughts sometimes when you're waiting in line or something annoys you? Just think of how angry your mind "sounds" when you think them, lol. 

     

    I may take a peek at some of the books on my shelf to see how they do it. Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man comes to mind (and why didn't I think of this sooner?).

     

    Thanks again for everyone's input! 

     

     

  • You could do a lot worse than following Bester.

     

  • Here are the results of looking at a few books with telepaths. I'd figured I'd share with you all!

     

    They make it clear that it is mindspeech and keep it simple.

     

    Bester does this:

    "You dashing little devil," she shot at him with a flirty thought.

    "Indeed I am."

    *Not an actual quote, lol. He uses italics with quotation marks...and some very creative formatting in certain instances.

     

    Other snippets I looked at just use italics without quotation marks, but make it clear it is thought speech, so I am wondering if I should tone down my characters' personal thoughts to make the italics not so confusing. I noticed that Bester doesn't have Lincoln Powell think to himself much (but then again, I was just flipping through the book. It's been several years since I've read it). 

     

    It is tough to figure out how to format something when there are no official rules for it!

     

    I just want to give a huge THANK YOU! to everyone who replied! 

     

     


  • Skoob_Ym wrote:

    My suggestion would be something like this:

     

    You need to get moving, James shot through mindspeak. I can't believe we are stuck here like this, he thought.

     

    "I know!" Amy snapped out loud. 

     

    Don't do that again, his mind hissed. You know more than anyone that we are being tracked. If they find us here...I don't need to remind you of what will happen to us.

     

    He couldn't believe she was acting like this! She was letting her fear get the best of her. Why can't she just remain calm? Did he pick the wrong person to trust? James shifted and peered over the ledge. A uniformed officer had stopped in the courtyard below. 

     

    I'm sorry. I just --

     

    We need to get out of here now!

     

    To make a long explanation short, I would use italics to indicate a thought that is transmitted, and leave private thoughts in plain text. This will require a bit more identification of thoughts, but once the reader gets the idea that he is inside James' head already, the plain text will convey the right idea. Red alterations are mine.


    I think I might do something like this. Thank you for the help! I'm going to toggle around first, but after sampling excerts from other books, this seems to be the norm. 


  • MLCrabb a écrit :

     

    It is tough to figure out how to format something when there are no official rules for it!

     


    Didn't I recall the basic rules concerning dialogues and streams of consciousness (thinking to oneself)?  Smiley Frustrated


  • potetjp wrote:

    MLCrabb a écrit :

     

    It is tough to figure out how to format something when there are no official rules for it!

     


    Didn't I recall the basic rules concerning dialogues and streams of consciousness (thinking to oneself)?  Smiley Frustrated


    There really are no "basic rules" in English for dialog or stream of consciousness. Consistency and clarity are the main things to strive for.


  • Ron Miller a écrit :


    There really are no "basic rules" in English for dialog or stream of consciousness. Consistency and clarity are the main things to strive for.

    ___________________________________________________

     

    Perhaps. Yet I'm pretty sure a US or UK publisher would require an author to use quotation marks in a dialogue, and italics for streams of consciousness.

    A telepathic conversation is a conversation, so requires quotation mark, etc. 

  • Perhaps. Yet I'm pretty sure a US or UK publisher would require an author to use quotation marks in a dialogue, and italics for streams of consciousness.

     

    It's the same with publsher's worldwide, they all have their own in-house rules of format, it's possible to see this in many books from different publishers. And 'their's' is always the right one.

    I often wonder if it depends at what establishment the editors were educated at.  Smiley Very Happy

     

    A telepathic conversation is a conversation, so requires quotation mark, etc. 

     

    I also often wonder why a quotation mark when the words may not be a quote? Some places use ' rather than " . Which is correct?

     

    If you look in to punctuation on line, each site seems to have its own idea what is right and what is wrong (I found at least one that does not even include  '  .) I recall when my wife was at Uni taking a BEd English degree, and even though she already had 11 GCEs (one in English) and two A-levels (one in English) (and dozens of other qualifications) what she learned at Uni was not the same. In fact she discovered that English is far more flexible than some people assume, which can be annoying when you come up against rigid editors. Smiley Frustrated

  • I have the impression US universities are more serious than UK universities as regards English. I remember comparing two books on radars. The US one was flawless. The UK one was sloppy with several unclear sentences and grammatical mistakes.

    As regards novels, it's very important that the reader should know who says what, which parts are narrative and which parts are dialogues, etc. Without the standard punctuation, I fail to see how this could be achieved.

    The only variation I noticed is that some publishers want single quotation marks while others want double quotation marks. For the rest the whole English-speaking world follows about the same rules.


  • potetjp wrote:

    I have the impression US universities are more serious than UK universities as regards English. I remember comparing two books on radars. The US one was flawless. The UK one was sloppy with several unclear sentences and grammatical mistakes.

    As regards novels, it's very important that the reader should know who says what, which parts are narrative and which parts are dialogues, etc. Without the standard punctuation, I fail to see how this could be achieved.

    The only variation I noticed is that some publishers want single quotation marks while others want double quotation marks. For the rest the whole English-speaking world follows about the same rules.


    As a general rule, UK and Commonwealth use single quotes for speech, and double for cited speech:

    She said, 'I distinctly heard you say, "I don't like soup." '

     

    Whereas in the US we tend to do the opposite:

    She said, "I distinctly heard you say, 'I don't like soup.' "

     

    though in this internet era, it is probably becoming a bit blurred.

     


  • Skoob_Ym a écrit :

    As a general rule, UK and Commonwealth use single quotes for speech, and double for cited speech:

    She said, 'I distinctly heard you say, "I don't like soup." '

     

    Whereas in the US we tend to do the opposite:

    She said, "I distinctly heard you say, 'I don't like soup.' "

     


    Oh, thanks a lot, Skoob_Ym. Both interesting and useful. I follow the US system, even in French.

  • I have the impression US universities are more serious than UK universities as regards English. I remember comparing two books on radars. The US one was flawless. The UK one was sloppy with several unclear sentences and grammatical mistakes.

     

    Or perhaps the UK one was in English English? But perhaps it proves my point about English being more flexible than people assume?

     

    As regards novels, it's very important that the reader should know who says what, which parts are narrative and which parts are dialogues, etc. Without the standard punctuation, I fail to see how this could be achieved.

     

    I agree, and it should be made clear just who is speaking in a multi-person conversation. I have seen a few novels where one has to guess. It can at times even be unclear who is when only two are speaking.

     

  • I vote for italics. However, from the one line you exampled, I see you missing the opportunity to show him using 'mindspeak'

     

    {You need to get moving,} James shot through mindspeak. I can't believe we are stuck here like this.

     

    You need to get moving, James glared to him - I can't believe we are stuck here like this.

  • This is someone who has just become telepathic >>

     

    Lilium is yet again startled because the boy answers her before she verbalises the words. She has projected her surface thoughts one more time even if she is not aware of doing it while she is thinking. Thankfully they only broadcast extremely locally.

    “I am Prince Leopold of Europe,” he says proudly, sitting up tall, before sagging again.

    But he has wasted his breath because she can hear his pre-speech thoughts as plain as day! This occasional interplay between minds does not seem to have puzzled him at all. Or he may not have really noticed, or just ignoring it thinking it is normal for fairies. Just ‘magic’. Any thought about it does not pop in to his head, Lilium notices.

    “Is it me or is it him who is the telepath?” She wonders however, “I know some Terrans have that gift, or did, but not that powerful I’m sure. And I do not have such talents! Well I didn’t!”

    Leopold, not picking up on those thoughts for some reason is still whispering - “daddy, sorry, my father the King, is not very well. I am the next in line. The last in line. If he goes then I will be king.”

    He didn’t start off by mentioning how it is that she knows people want him dead. ‘Magic’ again?

    She listens, but his pre-thoughts have faded away to leave only his voice as the main means of communication, so she now puts this ‘mind-reading’ or whatever it is, down to her over-active imagination caused by past stresses. Even though she appreciates that over-simplifies it.

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