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There doesn’t seem to be a universal rule for indicating
texts in prose. How do you handle it?
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How would I format texts? Well, don’t take my word for it, because I have been wrong before. That said, I fall back on my knowledge of citations and notations, and the like in prose (whether that is fiction or non). This doesn’t mean that, in the end, this is how things will be done. Eventually, how someone handled texts already will set a precedence, cementing accepted practice.
Something in the back of my head wants me to place texts as off set paragraphs following a colon. So it would look like this…
Al delighted in getting a rise off of Beth, so he responded to her innocuous text thus:
Well, I guess you always know best.
Beth started typing a response. The ellipsis blinked, but then nothing came through. Al grimaced. It hadn’t hit the way he had hoped. Three days passed. Nothing.
That’s one way to address it, but you can see that it would take up a lot of space in a story. So my second guess is that you’d handle it exactly as you would dialogue in someone’s head–thoughts. I love these idea of this. It doesn’t disrupt the field of the page, and it is a type of dialogue. So when you write it, it would likely be as follows:
Al delighted in getting a rise off of Beth, so he responded to her innocuous text with: Well, I guess you always know best. Beth started typing a response. The ellipsis blinked, but then nothing came through. Al grimaced. It hadn’t hit the way he had hoped. Three days passed. Nothing.
While the first version stands out, highlighting the text on the page, the other keeps it within the flow of the action.
Sidenote: While there is no description of jabbing fingers to highlight texting is happening, keep in mind that the example is mid conversation. The author may start with such descriptors. However, you don’t want to refer to it again. Unless an energy change takes palce, which you find necessary to describe because it is not encompassed in the dialogue used, it becomes excessive. Avoid wordiness as much as possible. Honestly, you won’t need to describe every tick of emotion in dialogues when the punctuation and wording does it for you. If you do, the writing is superfluous. (No worries! We all do this and continue to work on it.)
Which of the above two do you prefer? I would use the highlighted version (example 1) if the texts were infrequent or the prose wasn’t very long so the space it takes up is not of concern. That said, I very much like it embedded (example 2) into the action as ‘thoughts.’ This feels comfortable and natural.
Texts are a lot easier to handle in filmmaking. You write them as description and the rest of the team will format them on the screen – either as an onscreen shot of the phone, or graphic. You’ve probably seen both on television and movies already. There seems to be greater consensus on this because in this field, there is a lot of competition and you can get rejected if you don’t follow practice on something. So everyone is very much clear on how things are done.
From this, I would gather that prose will take the same route and place the texts in the regular paragraph descriptions as I showed in example 2. Let’s hop on over to see what the other authors think about this. I bet some of them have even used this. Admittedly, most of my work is historical in nature. Texts have not yet come up.
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Richard Dee says
It never hurts to drop little hints, to make sure your reader understands what’s going on and where the information is coming from. As long as you can do it without seeming to be patronising them, I think anything goes.
Stevie Turner says
I would go for example 1, as regarding example 2 they could be confused with thoughts. I’m not sure having to write that each message is a text beforehand would please an agent?
Captain Maiel says
I think you can say it in different ways, but once you establish the texting conversation, you don’t have to repeat it. Like you don’t have to say someone said every quoted dialogue.
P.J. MacLayne says
I think the key is making sure the reader realizes it’s a text message, however you write it.