This week we’re going to be talking about texting and writing. I’ve noticed that in recent years that more books are incorporating texting into their stories. I can’t blame them as texting is everywhere and used by a large number of people. As a response to this phenomenon, we’re going to be looking at how you can use it in your own writing.
I, for once, do not have a definition to go into right off the bat. I know! It’s weird for me too! Additionally, there wasn’t much out there on how to do this properly. (Say what?)
Honestly, the lack of information makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Texting didn’t become popular until the 2000s. What we know as texting is approximately 20 years old, and it’s only growing more prevalent in today’s society.
So here’s the problem: writers are supposed to be depicting real-life scenarios and characters and how can we do that without texting? How can we incorporate texting into our stories without any guidelines?
Before we get into the formatting side of things, I want to lay out one fundamental rule:
- Be consistent. I know I’ve beaten this suggestion to death, but I’ve got to give it another kick. No matter how you portray texting make sure you do it, in the same way, each time you use it.
Now as to the formatting, we can do this in a couple of different ways:
- We can use italics. Be careful here and choose what’s best for your POV and least confusing for your readers. This rule comes in handy is when you’re using the third person POV and are using italics to convey your character’s inner dialogue. Or if you email in italics, or whatever.
- Treat them like regular dialogue. I’d personally add a few clues in to differentiate between spoken dialogue and texting dialogue. To do this, try tagging the conversation with “he typed” or to describe texting. I.e., think about the response bubbles and the agony that follows when they keep popping up and then going away.
(Pssst. The Chicago Manual of Style is in favor of using quotation marks, but the guidelines are kind of meh.)
- Use colons. If you’ve ever been in a group chat, then you know what this looks like. However, it can have its disadvantages, such as distancing your readers from the conversation when using initials or the emotional punch that the words can have on the scene.
- Left/right justification. This one is my personal go-to. I feel like it’s life-like and it’s easy to follow the conversation. Here’s an example from one of my stories:
Stuck at a boring work function this weekend.
Need a distraction desperately. Lol. What are
you up to this weekend?
Catching up with my family. Haven’t seen
them in a while.
Aside from the formatting above, I personally think that old school emojis should be used in fiction as well. It’s one of those markers that let your readers know that it’s a text message they’re reading, not dialogue. The one thing I would stay away from is using shorthand, which I apparently didn’t do in the example above. Shorthand is always changing, and unless it’s a commonly used or has been explained to the reader, then it doesn’t need to be in there.
Those are the four ways that I can think of for formatting. If you have any other ideas, let me know! I definitely think this needs to be talked about more thoroughly so we can get some firmer guidelines in place. In the meantime, we get to make up those rules, which is incredible.
That’s it for me this week! I hope this shed a bit of light on how to integrate texts into your story. If not, then I don’t know what to say and feel free to tell me what you think the protocol for this should be in the comments below.
As for next week, you’ll be getting a double feature. As per tradition, you’ll get a Valentine’s Day-themed post, along with the concluding dialogue post, which will be about combining dialogue and action. So stay tuned for that!