Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Italics and formatting on the blog

I have a thing on italics and formatting blog, and I both agree and disagree.

I like italics. I like the formatting of stories. Given the choice, I'll read html rather than text -- but clean html, just the bare formatting, black on white, no backgrounds that kill my eyes or violent colors that distract me.

Italics. I use them abundantly to denote thoughts, dreams, non-linearity or intonation in dialogues. Some characters have very specific speech patterns and I find italics useful in conveying them. It's my dialogue after all. Why shouldn't I decide where to put the emphasis? Ben does it for me on the screen, doesn't he?

My characters dream in italics the way John dreams in a different light. I can't play with photography, but I can play with other things. I'm attached to the form of the text itself. Length of paragraphs to convey rhythm, short sentences to convey action, a staccato of single words to convey confusion -- visually as well as meaningfully. Italics are just another trick in the bag.

I dislike bold because it's often used when italics would do. Because visually, it's violent and can drag you out of the story. It should be used sparely if at all.

Ultimately, italics are a tool the way punctuation is a tool. The tool exists and I use it. Like any tool, the wrongness, the badness, the evil isn't in the tool itself, it's in its use. If you know what you're doing, if you follow the safety protocols, the rules, you're safe. No harm done. You can enhance the pleasure, like special effects on film. You don't always need the effects to tell the story, but they can serve the tale. Sometimes they can be an integral part of it. The secret is to not be jarring or gratuitous or ignorant. If you do it well, you have served the story.

I do not subscribe to the orthodoxy of words. A word in italics is still a word.

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