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Thread: Telepathic Dialogue

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    Question Telepathic Dialogue

    After you have established that two characters are speaking telepathically, would you still use "said"? Or would you use "thought"? Said feels more natural to me but they are not actually speaking.

    Thanks for the help.

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    Senior Member CupofJoe's Avatar
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    Do they use "normal" speech? If so you might want to differentiate between that and telepathic communication. So said vs though would work. You could put it in italics if you wanted to use the said for telepathic communications but show that it was different in some way from regular vocal speech.
    Welcome BTW
    Gibson: No, I... I have to write some letters first.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by CupofJoe View Post
    Do they use "normal" speech? If so you might want to differentiate between that and telepathic communication. So said vs though would work. You could put it in italics if you wanted to use the said for telepathic communications but show that it was different in some way from regular vocal speech.
    Welcome BTW
    Thanks for the welcome. It's purely telepathic, no "normal" speech.

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    Senior Member TheCrystallineEntity's Avatar
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    Almost all of my characters in every book are telepathic, and I put their dialogue in italics.

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    Senior Member FifthView's Avatar
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    Italics works great for this, and you can use action beats to distinguish who is speaking. From memory, I think Robin Hobb often would indicate that the thinker is aware of the person being addressed, as a clue or reminder of the other party (in case only one person is sending a thought, it's not back and forth.) If you have more than two people engaged in telepathic conversation, this could help even more.

    She had a first person MC and his wolf communicating like this, at first, then others. Here's one example, from Fool's Fate:

    Then Nettle's sudden Skilling hit me with the force of a mallet. The dragon's are coming! Tintaglia bids us have live meat waiting for them, in the "customary" place!

    —This was for a sudden thought being received, so not during an extended telepathic conversation. Maybe it helps to have a special name for the magic ability? I think Robin Hobb uses "skilled" sometimes like we'd use said or thought.

    Here's another:

    I sat down, focused myself, and reached for Chade. Where are you? I need to report. I need someone to help me make sense of this.

    Ah! Excellent to hear you. I would very much welcome your report. We are in Verity's tower. Can you make the climb?

    I think so. But not swiftly. Wait for me.

    —Like other speech, a new paragraph indicates a new speaker, so no need for said or thought.

    There's a fun little bit here. "Thick" is the name of one person. But many people suddenly join in response:

    In the disappointed silence that followed her failed attempt, I found a place for my faint Skilling.

    Thick. I'm not well. Can you come to meet me at the Witness Stones? Bring a pony, or even a donkey and cart. I'm not sure I could sit up to ride. I have two large sacks of scrolls.

    I felt a wordless blast of amazement from all of them. And then, a pelting of questions: Where are you?

    Where have you been?

    Are you hurt? Were you attacked by something?

    Held prisoner?

    I just came through the stones. I'm weak. Sick. Prilkop said, don't use the stones too often.
    And then I let it go, feeling wretchedly nauseous and dizzy. I lay....

    —So here, we only know when the MC is thinking, but not who is saying all the rest; it's like shouts in a crowd.

    But the earlier point: If you have several people engaged in a conversation, or even just two, you can indicate who is sending thoughts, or to whom, by giving the POV character other impressions of them. I couldn't find a great example just flipping through the e-reader (oh! for a solid book and easy flipping!), but it might be something like this:

    What do you think about indicating telepathic speech? EponasSong's thought came clear and seemed genuinely curious. I instantly thought of Robin Hobb, one of my many go-to sources of inspiration.

    Robin Hobb does this with italics. You can....

    Or something like this:

    I was reading a forum post when a sudden idea hit me. Hey, what about a thread on telepathic speech?

    EmponasSong snorted. I felt embarrassed. Are you busy?

    No. I've just already started a thread on that.

    Oh. Okay. I'll go look.
    Last edited by FifthView; 7-16-17 at 2:58 PM.

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    I do like the idea of something to differentiate normal thoughts and telepathic communication. I like "sent" instead of said for it myself.

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    Senior Member Rkcapps's Avatar
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    I use italics like FV said and TCE does.

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    Senior Member Michael K. Eidson's Avatar
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    I know one writer who uses <<thoughts inserted here>> to indicate telepathic speech.

    Personally, I prefer [thoughts inserted here] instead, because I don't like typing two characters to delineate speech. I use the brackets in my WIP. I don't like heavy use of italics, and I have passages heavy with telepathic dialogue.

    I use "said" for telepathic speech. I also use "projected," especially early in the story, when introducing the concept of telepathy. After I've established that square brackets indicates telepathy, I start using "said" more often. Sometimes I leave off the tag, if I have a beat to indicate the speaker, or if the speaker can easily be determined from context.

    The conversations in my WIP sometimes include both spoken word and telepathy. In this case, I might use "projected" for the telepathic dialogue and "said" for the spoken dialogue, but again, if context makes things clear, I might revert to "said" even in this case. If telepathic speech is being returned to someone, I might say "replied." Since the telepathy might be restricted as to who hears it, I'll say "projected to Jane" or "projected to Jack and Jill" to indicate the recipients of the telepathic speech, or indicate the addressed person(s) in the telepathic dialogue, if it's not clear from context.

    ===

    Jack stepped on a piece of glass. "Ow!"

    Jill knelt to examine his foot. "It didn't break the skin. You'll be all right."

    [What a wuss,] John projected to Jane.

    [Yeah,] Jane replied, [I think Jill is sweet on him.]

    "I'm sure you'll live," John said. Jane's virtual laughter sounded in his skull. He glanced at her. The corners of her mouth trembled, straining not to curve up. [You have such a beautiful laugh, Jane. Don't hold it back. Let it out. The world deserves to hear it.]

    [Oh, shush, John. You're making me blush.]

    [Your cheeks are turning a bit pink.]

    "Earth to John," Jill said. "Can you take Jack's pack? I think he might have twisted his ankle."

    ===

    Compare that to:

    ===

    Jack stepped on a piece of glass. "Ow!"

    Jill knelt to examine his foot. "It didn't break the skin. You'll be all right."

    <<What a wuss,>> John projected to Jane.

    <<Yeah,>> Jane replied, <<I think Jill is sweet on him.>>

    "I'm sure you'll live," John said. Jane's virtual laughter sounded in his skull. He glanced at her. The corners of her mouth trembled, straining not to curve up. <<You have such a beautiful laugh, Jane. Don't hold it back. Let it out. The world deserves to hear it.>>

    <<Oh, shush, John. You're making me blush.>>

    <<Your cheeks are turning a bit pink.>>

    "Earth to John," Jill said. "Can you take Jack's pack? I think he might have twisted his ankle."

    ===

    And compare both the above to:

    ===

    Jack stepped on a piece of glass. "Ow!"

    Jill knelt to examine his foot. "It didn't break the skin. You'll be all right."

    What a wuss, John projected to Jane.

    Yeah, Jane replied, I think Jill is sweet on him.

    "I'm sure you'll live," John said. Jane's virtual laughter sounded in his skull. He glanced at her. The corners of her mouth trembled, straining not to curve up. You have such a beautiful laugh, Jane. Don't hold it back. Let it out. The world deserves to hear it.

    Oh, shush, John. You're making me blush.

    Your cheeks are turning a bit pink.

    "Earth to John," Jill said. "Can you take Jack's pack? I think he might have twisted his ankle."

    ===

    Of course, it depends on whether you are self-publishing or going the traditional route. With a traditional publisher, they might have their own style requirements regarding telepathic speech.
    Last edited by Michael K. Eidson; 7-17-17 at 12:22 PM.
    "The truth doesn't matter. The alternative is often better."

    https://www.mkeidson.com/

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