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Three levels of speech - how to discern? (1 Viewer)

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indianroads

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In my next novel, Inception, my characters communicate via three methods. I'm looking for techniques/punctuation to show each of these.

ASL - American Sign Language = single quote + italic text 'Howdy'
Regular speech = "Same old, same old"
Sub-vocal speech - using an embedded chip in their brain = LT, GT signs + italic text <No one can hear me but you>

Opinions?
 

robertn51

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Opinions?
More like sharing another tack. (And some agreement)

I have a piece, to be polite about it, gestating. And within it there's a major character who is mute. I thought I'd set off her "speech" as you have, by the use of the italic font and punctuation.

Then I asked myself why call attention to it? Why was it important to make her speech any different from verbal speech for the reader? I mean, the effect is the same. What was I pointing to by calling attention to it?

I couldn't come up with an answer.

I decided to make her speech delimited the same as vocalized speech -- double-quotes and normal font -- but, in the attribution, it was her fingers that were saying, flashing, petting.

"That won't be necessary," her fingers flashed.

Because that is the way one listens to someone signing. By watching them. All of their hands and fingers and body and face.

The decision felt right.

Then I found out from a friend who does realtime ASL interpreting, that ASL grammar is not like colloquial English grammar.

Quoting from Wikipedia, for expediency, leaving out annotation of body and facial gestures:

As English, "my friend was typing her term paper all night"
As ASL, "my friend type T-E-R-M paper. type all-night"

Did I want to do all that? I did not. I wanted my reader to read what was "meant," not what was "said." So I continued to quote conventional speech, with attribution to her fingers.

Then, all that settled, I, after making it all possible, like an ass, asked, "Why must she be mute? What does that detail bring into the story?"

"Because I want it that way," was the wrong answer, because the piece immediately stuttered. And then, "Why does she die?" I answered with, "because she must" brought it to, well, "suspended animation" while me and muse arm wrestle in our respective shadows.

So, for me, signing is normal speech font and punctuation, with specialized attribution for the mute saying.

Works for the chip, too, I think.

What I didn't want to give up was the use of the italic for the main's internalized speech. Like this, from Arkady Martine's intricate and awesome A Desolation Called Peace.

Nine Hibiscus said, “That’s why we’re the weight,” like she was one of her soldiers in the mess, ship-phrase slogan, and smiled. Game on, she thought. Sixteen Moonrise, whatever it is you want from me—come play.

However, to your credit, I just now re/discovered this, from the same book:

<A fascinating theory, that one,> said Yskandr, <which you are in the process of disproving at this very moment.>

Aside: Yskandr, there, whose speech is delimited much as you have noted, is a secondary consciousness within the main character. Kind of like having a chip? He is another being's mind uploaded into the main character's mind after his death. And, secretly and doubly illegal, she has uploaded two images of him: One younger, one older.​
Aside aside: I'm pretty sure this -- the two images across a life upload -- is a critical plot point to be exercised at some point. Because the earlier inciting event of the book is the invading alien culture's awareness of​
"Another body provides counterpoint, a dissonant chord ... This body sings in the we, sings of a few clever meat bodies that do remember what their dead meat knew. But not all of them. Not all the same knowing. Not like the singing of the we... What does this clever meat have that we do not? What singing is their singing, that we cannot hear?" [emphasis mine]​

So, all delicious asides aside: There's some precedent there for the use of angle-brackets to delimit internal communication channels.

[2021-07-29 1901]
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
More like sharing another tack. (And some agreement)

I have a piece, to be polite about it, gestating. And within it there's a major character who is mute. I thought I'd set off her "speech" as you have, by the use of the italic font and punctuation.

Then I asked myself why call attention to it? Why was it important to make her speech any different from verbal speech for the reader? I mean, the effect is the same. What was I pointing to by calling attention to it?

I couldn't come up with an answer.

I decided to make her speech delimited the same as vocalized speech -- double-quotes and normal font -- but, in the attribution, it was her fingers that were saying, flashing, petting.

[...]
The ASL connection is key in defining the friendship between the MMC and FMC. BTW: ASL is a robust method of communicating - and often stories/concepts can be communicated faster using ASL than verbiage.

MMC is afflicted by neurogenic stuttering, and due to ridicule of others he prefers to remain silent most of the time, he learned ASL from his first girlfriend. FMC's brother is deaf, she is a project manager at his work place and he is an engineer - so they work together. Their friendship starts that way.

Much of the plot revolves around a 'cure' for his stuttering - a chip that is planted in the speech center of his brain then dissolves (per the design) to buffer his speech - after which he can vocalize perfectly. The use of ASL only occurs in the first few chapters.
 
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