Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

So, whilst writing chapter 2 of my fiction I found myself needing to write a voice in the MC's head. Now, as i am regularly showing his thoughts, i was just wondering the best way to do it, as well as for other characters, or even describing someone speaking into another mind. What I came up with was -   Knight was cursing his luck. He was cursing his luck until a serene voice entered his thoughts, calming his curses, ‘it is alright; use the light.'  Should I get rid of '' and just use italics? Maybe use speech-marks? I need my MC to reply etc, so would it be best to keep it how it was and just state if it is the MC who is speaking or the unknown voice?

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

Lots of authors handle telepathy differently.

Mark Lawrence just uses regular italics in his Book of the Ancestor series, the same way he would for character thoughts. Here's an actual quote from Bound since I happen to have it up on Kindle:

Quote:I should go, Nona said inside Ara’s head as her friend turned to face the tall cage-fighter.

Don’t you dare leave me alone with him!

But … it’s not right. We’re tricking him, Nona said.

Notice, that, aside from the punctuation, it's still handled exactly like dialog. Whenever a new character "speaks", this starts a new paragraph.

Here's another example from my series, Aeonica. Unlike Mark Lawrence, I use italics and single quotes to separate telepathic communication from private thoughts. 

Quote:'Nahlia?' Thane spoke in his mind, without moving his mouth.

'Thane.' Her voice sounded panicked in his head. 'Where are you? Are you in the Clansmeet?'

'I am,' Thane said.

Finally, another common method is to use brackets. I've seen this in Mother of Learning, and in Will Wight's Cradle series. Here's an example from Mother of Learning:

Quote:[That’s so sad,] the aranea said. [You are incomplete. But I suppose it could always be worse. You could be a flickermind like your friend there.]

This last example can look a bit odd at first, but it's useful if you plan on using a lot of telepathy (which MoL does) and you don't want your readers to confuse it with regular dialog or thoughts.

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind


I see you included a good example without the quotation marks with Bound. Making my example a bit frivolous, as I didn't think you included one on my first read through.

It also helps if characters address each other by name or title which is what they would be doing constantly in a feudal society anyway. Then you can get rid of a lot of superfluous 'he said' and 'she asked.'

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

I would suggest using whatever method is most appropriate based off of what kind of context or flavour you want behind the experience of mental voices. Pure italics tend to be used for internal thoughts or musing of a character, when they’re not used for emphasis and inflection of specific words. The look more flowing than the normal font which gives me an impression of the words actually being within the mind and internal thoughts, more intimate and invasive into your private awareness, flowing gently into the mind.

Italics and quotes is just one step of separation, it could be you thinking of a quote and ‘placing’ those thoughts mentally in quotation marks. This adds a level of personal space between the receiver and the person speaking into their mind. The words are written slant so we read them as slant to the rest of reality.

Using regular dialogue gives the impression mindspeak is indistinguishable from audible words, it gives me the mental image of mindspeak manifesting as a hallucination, us actually hearing the words physically as far as our perception can conceive. Like mindspeak in movies where they have to use audio instead of having you just being able to imagine the words floating into your mind. It’s also appropriate if the communication actually is just transmitting sounds across vast distances.

Brackets have this technical looking effect, like computer code. It feels more like a transmission through technological means than mysterious mystical strangeness which we half aren’t sure is even real. It’s more tangible but a step away from normal dialogue. I imagine this almost like having an earbud like the secret service and talking to people that aren’t there. And by technology I also mean suitable explained magic, where magic acts closer to a machine and science than a mystical pursuit of things edging on the surreal. It gives me the impression of the method of communication being a product of invention and intelligent design rather than wishy washy powers that work in mysterious ways, but we have no idea exactly how.

Another alternative would be just hiding the messages into the text itself, sitting among the prose like any other kind of description. This would be quite jarring to the reader and give the impression that the words are already there in the mind and you only realise what they are by noticing they’re out of place and worded differently than the should be. Like a compulsion to say embarrassing thing that you only realize after the words have left your mouth. This one is closer to the Uncanny and might be useful for the impression of mental violation. You only realize the truth in hindsight and it’s horrifying. That kind of thing.

Another option would be to literally alter the format of the words (depending on your platform and text editing options of course) such as using a different font, using that weird thing where every letter is capitalized but they are the same height as normal letters, cApiTalIziNg eVerY sEcONd LEtTer or so, having the font be physically smaller or larger than normal. Every choice gives a different impression of what it would be like to experience this foreign form of communication.

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

If you are after telepathy and need multiple character voices. I would make use of the fact that you are writing on a format which can use colored font!.
have the color represent a character or the kind of feeling you want from the character speaking. 

I don't have telepathy... well not yet anyway. In my story I use Italics for internal 1st person thoughts, but i still have 3rd person thinking. I make a distinction in my writing that, for most general thinking the story uses 3rd person perspective, but in moments of desperation or where I need to emphasize a thought, I will switch to 1st person perspective and use Italics. This means Italic thoughts in my story are 1st person and a direct statement of emotion or observation.

My characters are alone for the most part so they start off internalizing and then as I've progressed they have started talking out loud instead of thinking internally. That is one of the reasons I decided to make a distinction between speaking out loud and thinking. So my decisions on using Italics actually has some reasoning behind it.

I chose Italics over 'quotations' for thinking because my characters talk out loud to themselves and so I use normal "double quotes" for that.

It is important to think through your choices and make sure that whatever you choose. is indicative enough to the reader of what is happening. Do not let them get confused about who is thinking what or whether they are speaking out loud or thinking internally. 

eh, hope that helps.

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind


Fernicus Wrote: If you are after telepathy and need multiple character voices. I would make use of the fact that you are writing on a format which can use colored font!.
have the color represent a character or the kind of feeling you want from the character speaking.

I would shy away from using coloring.

The reason I suggested not doing any weird formatting (brackets and the like, which a lot of people ITT are suggesting) is because on the off chance you decide to publish your book to ereaders like kindle (or a hard copy), a lot of your formatting choices will be lost or will look awkward outside the context of Royal Road.

If you intend on never posting your story on a different format (or even a website that doesn't allow formatting like changing colors of your text), then it works. But in terms of considering the future, it is better to not do any weird formats that you'll have to spend a large portion of your time undoing down the line.

The less you have to change per version of your story, the more consistent it will be across platforms. This is also why you do not see a lot of books with pictures in them. Pictures really screw up some ereaders (if they can even show the picture in the first place).

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

My opinion is italics, its just natural now, I see italics and I immediately think its the thoughts, but I've read a lot. most hardcopy books use italics as well. If you are going to give an identity to those thoughts then I suggest you just use "" and then identify em otherwise just italics. Fancy formats don't matter much in the end, even these fancy tables you see everywhere don't mean much out of RR.

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind

Thanks for the responses.

So, I had another idea. I could have my MC's thoughts in just italics and when there's telepathy I can do use 'italics'

An example:

'use the light'

what the hell?

'Don't question, just use the light'

Err, right.

Would that be better than having just italics for the whole thing? Obviously adding things like "the voice said with no consideration for his privacy" etc and not just pure dialogue.

Re: Someone's voice in someone's mind


Kamikoto Wrote: Would that be better than having just italics for the whole thing? Obviously adding things like "the voice said with no consideration for his privacy" etc and not just pure dialogue.

It's just a matter of your preference, It is not bad unless you are consistent and no other scene has it. I would still just do the basics though but that is me, italics for thoughts and quotes for speaking. 

You can also do quotes and italics at the same time, may seem over complicated but this will help you in the long run, not only are you solidifying the identity in his thoughts, you are also making the reader understand that there is now two people in the MC or so. I said this in previous threads but you need to add enough personality so that readers will automatically know who is speaking. It adds another depth for the story.

Anyway, to give you an example of what I mean.


"Link.. Link.."

What was that?

"Open your eyes.. Link"

Who are you?

"I am your.. Father."

Noooooo, that can't be.

-- Fade out --

Now for the most important thing. Do NOT ever use "I/she/he/name thought" to describe characters thinking. All you have to do is write the dialogue and let the readers figure it out, you can give hints but don't spoon feed them. You should always use double quotes if you are trying to identify different people, its for readability. 

It is very rare that an author makes a character speak twice in a row with no indication because its just weird. You can hint that he is hearing the voice in his head but It'd be more fun to just let the MC and readers figure it out, You can hear voices in your head, it doesn't have to be out loud. 

If anyone were to talk to you through telepathy, do you think you could honestly know if it was in your head or not? I would think not. You would just hear voices.