Lesson Twenty-Six from a Manuscript Red Line: CAPITAL LETTERS

2015 note:  The post below is a reblog from 2012. I wanted to note that my current publisher Month9Books does allow all caps, but they must be formatted as smallcaps. (Check Word formatting) In general, though, I would suggest using with caution, and sparingly.  Now on with the post!

Do you use Capital letters when your character yells?  Do you use them for casting spells?  Do you use them for inner thoughts?

Me?   No, Jennifer. 

I would never do such a thing! 

Well, I might… and I have.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I briefly mentioned CAPS in my first post on the Manuscript Red Line. (That was over Five months ago… Wow)  Anyway… here is the explanation.  The publisher said:

“The use of capital letters to show emphasis in a scene is not acceptable.  Especially don’t use it with magic, since JK Rowling did it that way.” (The Gold Mine author used caps as the character cast his spells)  “Come up with something new.  This is the key to fantasy – be unique – try not to do what was already done.”

Don’t shoot the messenger… this is their red-line, not mine.

In my novel, the characters don’t cast spells, but I did catch a few YELLING once in a while in CAPITAL LETTERS.  I got so used to looking at it that I liked it, but I have to admit, it works much better as “Get out!” rather than “GET OUT!”.  I use caps a lot for emphasis in my blog, so they may have wiggled their way into my novel.

For all you spell casters out there:  You can do better than JK Rowling.  She had her idea.  Now you need to come up with yours.  What are you going to come up with that everyone else wants to copy?


5 responses to “Lesson Twenty-Six from a Manuscript Red Line: CAPITAL LETTERS

  1. Writers have to write what feel right. A good story trumps rules.
    As a reader, I tend to dislike CAPS.

  2. I have a habit of using caps on my blog and I believe the habit may have slipped elsewhere… 😦

  3. I agree, Dave. I’ve been writing on a particular novel for quite some time, I started it before J.K. Rowling hit it big. It also has walkways and flowers that light up as in Avatar. I’ve got a character named Groote, long before Guardians of the Galaxy came out. does that mean I have to change everything because someone else came out with it first? No. I have my style, my own spellings, and just because someone else did something, doesn’t mean I can’t. Sure, publishers have their guidelines, and if one picks your book to publish, then you’ll have to format their way. Until then, if you want to shout in all caps for emphasis every now and then, I say go for it.

    Also, use those adverbs. J. K. Rowling did it repetitively and she wasn’t ‘big’ when she subbed her first novel. She was a nobody and her book was picked up. Why? Because of the story and because of her characters. We loved them, we hated them and there was a growing plot. Isn’t that what we all want in a good novel? To me, that’s what we need to focus on, not how many words are in all caps or how many adverbs we use.

  4. JK Rowling wasn’t first with using capital letters to cast spells: she might have been first using them combined with faux-Latin. So I say use Caps for casting if you want.

    That said, invented language whether as a source of character struggle or as flavour are tricky to get ringing right for more than occasional words unless you are good at linguistics, so not writing out spell words at all might be a good way to show magic.