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Thread: How would you format an internal conversation?

  1. #1
    Wielder of Leiyin and llamas smellycat6464's Avatar
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    How would you format an internal conversation?

    Hi there! Tis been a while

    I've looked through the pages, and I hope I am posting this in the write forum and hopefully not repeating an earlier question, but is there some special formatting required for talking to "a visitor" for lack of a better word.

    In my WIP I have one character who has what we'd probably classify as DID, and several others undergo a ritual that involves having a sentient spirit shack up in your body.

    But things got messy real fast when I tried having the POVs chat with their embodiments. I figured the experts would know

    Currently, I have everything "conversed mentally" in italics, but I am debating if I need quotation marks for any voices that do not belong to the POV. I also rely on dialogue tags to mark who said what. Is this the best way to approach the situation? Or is this all personal preference?

    Thanks in advance!
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
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    Personally, I have a lot of telepathy in my book and certain spirits trapped inside other people. The body and the disembodied voices talk to each other. I use italics with quotation marks to represent all no verbal conversations.

  3. #3
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I've seen it used as italics with dialogue tags.

    Kill her, be free of her! Bob said. (Italics tell that its internal, dialogue tag directs it and tells the reader its not the character's thoughts)

    Shut up. (Character's thought)


    The problem lies in if you use a lot of italicized thoughts, it can get confusing when the voices abruptly rise up.

    I've also seen italics with whatever this is: ~

    ~Kill her, be free of her!~

    And then use typical italics for the POV/narrator. But this would be best for a single voice.


    I wouldn't use quotation marks, the italics are enough.

    I've never seen a true format to this, so I'd say personal preference. But whatever you do, make sure the reader knows the voice is coming from within their head (and speaking back), and keep is consistent.

    You could have these spirits materialize before the character, that only they can see, and have the conversation like that. Because with a long conversation, its all talking heads to the reader.
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  4. #4
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    I'm sure you'll get replies here but you could try typing, say - Format of internal conversation - in the Site Specific Google Custom Search Box immediately below these posts and under the Posting Rules Box.
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  5. #5
    Wielder of Leiyin and llamas smellycat6464's Avatar
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    I searched the forum using the search box before posting, and I found nothing. I was more concerned that I was wording the question improperly, since I don't even know if this is the correct term for what I was uncertain of, if there even is one. (Word it wrong, and you won't find your result.)
    Thank you for the suggestion, though

    Thanks for the tips, everyone!
    I'll try out each of the suggestions and see which one's worked
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  6. #6
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    I also have a character who has "something that isn't him" living inside his head for most of my novel. It doesn't talk that often, but when it does, I use italics for when they're going back and forth (unless the protagonist forgets himself and answers verbally, drawing bemused stares from all in the vicinity), as the segments tend to be very short.

    I thought italics were pretty standard for telepathy and direct, untagged internal thoughts, at least in the fantasy and sci fi I've been reading since I discovered Anne McCaffrey back in the 1970's. But one of my readers has never heard of this "rule" and is having trouble getting around the notion that untagged italicized "internal" dialog with only two speakers follows the same "rules" as untagged spoken dialog (i.e. new paragraph=new speaker unless clearly indicated otherwise). This reader has suggested using quotes, but there's no way to make it clear that it's internal/telepathic instead of spoken in that case (unless I were to tag each and every line with a "the Dark Guardian spoke inside his head" or something like that, which seems really clunky to me).

    So now I'm not sure how to do it in a way that confuses no one without resorting to excessive tagging (something I really hate). Seems like no matter how I handle it, someone's confused or doesn't like it. I thought telepathy (and things whispering inside one's head) are pretty common tropes in fantasy, but not everyone reads the same stuff I do
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  7. #7
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    But, if it's clear that it's dialogue that is not spoken but telepathic, why use italics at all? It should be clear what is happening in the scene. Even it's telepathic, it's dialogue nonetheless and should be treated as such.
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  8. #8
    Wielder of Leiyin and llamas smellycat6464's Avatar
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    I agree with Roxxsmom in that the situation is truly unorthodox. I sort of feared that there was no rule (I like rules). Time shall tell, I guess. Luckily, this form of communication is rare, so I am expecting it shouldn't be an eyesore.

    And thank you, Susan, for your input However, I think that italics is the only way to indicate that words are thought not spoken. Other than dialogue tagging, I don't see how I could differentiate for the reader. Sometimes, the characters speak with these internal spirits with other people who are unaware of this phenomenon, and having someone just talk out loud to his/herself may give it away, or make them look crazy haha!

    Although, I never tried dialogue tags like "he said nonverbally," maybe it isn't so ugly? I'll try a scene with it and see how it reads. Thanks for the input
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    Burnt and Tossed:
    Haha so much, but I really never toss my writing.

    Toasted and Accepted:
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    Various articles published on AWS
    "Once Upon a Tea"--published by Adagio Teas on Teamuse.com

  9. #9
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Littlefield View Post
    But, if it's clear that it's dialogue that is not spoken but telepathic, why use italics at all? It should be clear what is happening in the scene. Even it's telepathic, it's dialogue nonetheless and should be treated as such.
    You mean slapping quotes around it? I'm pretty sure I was taught quotes are only used for spoken dialog. Maybe this is wrong, though. But I think it could be confusing if the human character in the exchange could respond telepathically or verbally and you're using quotes for both types of speech (unless you tag each and every line of dialog in the exchange, which would be rather cumbersome). I know as a reader, I like the quick cue that something is not being said aloud.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 12-31-2012 at 08:29 AM.
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  10. #10
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Currently, I have everything "conversed mentally" in italics, but I am debating if I need quotation marks for any voices that do not belong to the POV. I also rely on dialogue tags to mark who said what. Is this the best way to approach the situation? Or is this all personal preference?
    Smelly and Rox,

    Above is the language used. It sounds to me like their mental talking is dialogue, thus why I suggested to treat it as such. Either use dialogue tags on all or none. If it's dialogue, you would use quotes. You might even cue the reader that they talk with their minds, so that when you get around to the telepathy dialogue, the reader is aware.

    In the Tommyknockers by Stephen King,I just read this type of thought-conversation between several people in a scene. He used no italics or quotes and it worked just fine.

    I agree with Roxxsmom in that the situation is truly unorthodox.
    Not it's not. There are plenty of novels out there where characters speak in telepathy.
    Susan

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  11. #11
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Littlefield View Post
    Smelly and Rox,

    Above is the language used. It sounds to me like their mental talking is dialogue, thus why I suggested to treat it as such. Either use dialogue tags on all or none. If it's dialogue, you would use quotes. You might even cue the reader that they talk with their minds, so that when you get around to the telepathy dialogue, the reader is aware.

    In the Tommyknockers by Stephen King,I just read this type of thought-conversation between several people in a scene. He used no italics or quotes and it worked just fine.



    Not it's not. There are plenty of novels out there where characters speak in telepathy.
    I guess I'm not understanding what you mean, then. If I were to treat it like dialog, I'd tag it when, and only when, I needed to for clarity. But if there was no automatic way to differentiate between spoken and internal (like using quotes versus italics), then I'd have to tag it a lot more often than I usually tag dialog between two individuals.

    So I guess I'm wondering if there is a reason that italics are "bad" or a "no no" for internal or spoken dialog in recent years. Most of the SFF books I remember reading growing up did it this way, and I never had an issue with it. It made it crystal clear what was going on, whether or not each line was tagged. I suppose it might be a problem if the telepathic entity was very long winded (then you get the paragraphs of italics issue). But telepathic exchanges are pretty laconic in my world.
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  12. #12
    Wielder of Leiyin and llamas smellycat6464's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Littlefield View Post

    In the Tommyknockers by Stephen King,I just read this type of thought-conversation between several people in a scene. He used no italics or quotes and it worked just fine.



    Not it's not. There are plenty of novels out there where characters speak in telepathy.
    Ahhh, that makes more sense. I guess I was just making things harder than they needed to be. Thank you for that suggestion and clarification! I'll go check google books for Tommyknockers and see if I can pull a scene with that telepathy. thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    So I guess I'm wondering if there is a reason that italics are "bad" or a "no no" for internal or spoken dialog in recent years. Most of the SFF books I remember reading growing up did it this way, and I never had an issue with it. It made it crystal clear what was going on, whether or not each line was tagged. I suppose it might be a problem if the telepathic entity was very long winded (then you get the paragraphs of italics issue). But telepathic exchanges are pretty laconic in my world.
    I guess there is no formal way of approaching this, then. Stephen King did it his way, and the authors you read growing up did it their way. Maybe Stephen King's method is better if telepathy is a common occurrence because I've seen many on here complain when they see death by italics haha! I think it all boils down to the golden rule of writing: if it works, then it's okay.

    Of course, this is just my interpretation

    The real question always seems to plague us: DOES it work haha!
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    Haha so much, but I really never toss my writing.

    Toasted and Accepted:
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    Various articles published on AWS
    "Once Upon a Tea"--published by Adagio Teas on Teamuse.com

  13. #13
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    There seem to be a lot of styles on how to do this, but it's perhaps helpful to the reader to establish clarity for the practice early on and then remain consistent. So if you use italics, that's fine -- just as long as at the beginning we know what you're doing: John thought, wow, that's a really large dragon in my teacup. If you carry it forward, after a while I assume the italics are John thinking about dragons, or teacups, or whatever.

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