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How would denote a difference between a character 'thinking' something and saying it 'telepathically'?

I’m in the process of writing a fantasy story and I want to know what would be the appropriate way of denoting thought and telepathy. I know speech and dialogue are quotation marks, but how would YOU do thought versus telepathic speech?


  1. When your character thinks something in his/her mind then you would say something like:
    He thought to himself, ” If only I can climb that tree and reach the apple.”
    I thought, ” If only I can climb that tree and reach the apple.”
    When he is saying something telepathically you would introduce that notion before hand:
    In my mind I wanted to tell her, but I just couldn’t say it aloud.
    “Rachel,” I thought, “come here.”
    But she couldn’t read my mind. I had to find out a way to tell her, but how?

  2. There is no convention in literature for showing telepathy as it does not exist (?) in reality, however, we could start a convention e.g. write italics or could use << / >> that are used in spanish to denote speech (they could then use “” when your book is translated into spanish!

  3. when typing, these differences are mostly noted because they use italics. if your just writing you can of course use your lead ins such as he/she though… then quotations around the thoughts. hope this helps! also with telepathic speaking its the same as speaking if you have introduced the earlier fact that there telepathic and use this to communicate

  4. I’ve seen it done with asterisks used as quotes for the telepathic portions.
    “Mary, slow down, I need a rest,” **There’s someone waiting around the corner**
    Always seemed neat and readable to me.

  5. Fantasy stories that I have read have used several conventions, but the clearest I remember was to use italics for telepathic speech with thought being treated normally using phrases like, ‘Barney thought, “I like her.”‘.
    Another device that can be combined with this convention is using a special word for telepathic communication. The one that springs to mind is “sent.” Though if your telepath is a member of a society of telepaths, you may want to give them their own term, say “jorgoned” which you can introduce to the reader before using it in the text. Send would also have to be introduced in its new telepathic sense early in the story. Though its semantic content makes it possible to do this in a less obtrusive way than would be necessary for a new word unique to your fantasy universe.
    An example of how I would do it is below. The deliniate where the italics should start and stop respectively.
    Joe thought, “That’s a big monster.” Run, he sent frantically to Mixlpik.
    Mixlpik did nothing of the sort. Instead he jumped up in down in delight. “O boy! O boy! A real monster. Now I get to fight!”


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