Wednesday, August 17, 2011

IS THERE A PLACE FOR CAPSLOCK IN NOVELS?

My contest to win Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Duff by Kody Keplinger is still going strong. Enter now, before time runs out!

Anyway, onto the topic I've been thinking about for the past few hours.

DOES CAPSLOCK HAVE A PLACE IN LITERATURE?

I love capslock. I'm guilty of getting FAR TOO EXPRESSIVE and SHOUTING OVER THE INTERNET VIA CAPSLOCK. DON'T LIE, THE VOICE INSIDE YOUR HEAD IS SHOUTING AS YOU READ THIS, ISN'T IT?

Of course, this post isn't about using caps like I do. But for words or parts of sentences, especially dialogue, that you really want to emphasize, is capslock acceptable?

Still don't know what I'm talking about? That's okay, I'm not making much sense today anyway! Sometimes, we need to emphasize things in our writing, either for clarity, for voice, or sometimes because you want to add that extra little umph to your tension.

There are several different ways to emphasize in writing. Some traditionalist writers go for the underline approach which was used most commonly when typewriters were the bee's knees, because it was easier for an editor to see the underline as opposed to the italics.

But now that we've moved to these fancy-dancy computers and internets, the common standard is to use italics for emphasis. I still hear some debate about this between underliners and italic-ers, but the general consensus seems to be that italics are in, for the time being.

So where does that leave the outrageously obnoxious CAPSLOCK PEOPLE? I'm so guilty of emphasis alone, and I love capslock. I think in SHELL, literally half the book was emphasized. My beta readers made me cut out 3/4 of it, and a lot is still in there.

I've seen capslock used in books and in other cases I've seen it ignored. Some writers claim that it does have a place in fiction, but so long as it's kept only in dialogue. The Child Thief by Brom, I remember, had great use of capslock in dialogue. And boy, was it effective.

There are others, though, who I've heard say that capslock has no place in fiction. The standard for emphasis is italics, right, so why waste page space by blaring your message across the page? It strains the eyes after a while, and there are subtler ways to get your message across.

Of course, then there are those (LIKE MYSELF) who believe that capslock does have a place in fiction, either narrative or dialogue. It's a whole different package than italics. Italics do emphasize, but capslock emphasize in a bolder, brighter way.

I'll use an example to show how I think italics and capslock can coexist, doing the same thing in subltly different ways. If we take the following sentence:

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

Right now it's fine, but using italics, you get get a different meaning across.

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

With the emphasis there, we see get more of a bitterness to her tone. Change the emphasis, change the tone.

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

Placing the emphasis in a different part of the sentence completely changes the tone of this. Instead of coming across as bitter, the speaker suddenly comes across as whiny and/or needier than before.

And, of course:

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'D PICK HIM OVER ME," she cried.

Also effective, but watch how this changes the tone. Also, it's best to be careful with capslock, especially when emphasizing a full sentence like this. For best results, use capslock while the speaker is swinging a giant ax, lightning shooting out of her eyes and looking as though she might have crawled from the darkest recesses of the netherworld.


So I want to know your thoughts. What do you think of capslock in writing? Does it pull you out of the story? Does it bring a boldness and sharpness to the narrative? Does it feel grittier? Is it more effective? Does it make your eyes bleed?

Peace,

-Katie

3 comments:

  1. I love this post, as I am inordinately fond of the capslock during gchat sessions and occasionally while tweeting. I'm not sure how I feel about it in a manuscript, though. In your example above, the all caps feels redundant with the dialogue tag. It also feels like broadsword rather than a scalpel ... which appears to be that character's intent! I think one word every once in awhile might do, but don't think I could get into full lines in all caps, as much as I love them for informal expression!

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  2. Hey! What about the exclamation point?! :)

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  3. @Sarah All caps would be scary. This post is kind of muddled and not done very well (woohoo vacation mode) but regardless I wanted to get at the idea of using caps for emphasizing in similiar but different ways than italics. I still don't think I'm making much sense about it. Oh well!

    @Karin LOL! There is ALWAYS ROOM FOR EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!! The two seem to go hand in hand, eh?

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