Wednesday, June 13, 2018

deCAPitate


This is really a minnow of a question for a Shark, but it has been bugging me so I'd love you to sharpen your teeth on it. When writing a synopsis for a work of fiction do you capitalise the names of characters the first time you introduce them? Google hasn't helped as I've found advice both ways. I personally don't capitalise because I find the caps throw me off when I read the synopsis. I'm sure it wouldn't be a deal breaker, but you know us woodland creatures...


Your question reminded me of a delightful book called Caps For Sale. Originally published in 1947!





The question of ALL CAPPING names in synopses is one, like the Oxford comma, that will drive even mild-mannered agents (let alone fierce sharkly ones) into a frenzy.


ALL CAPPING is a refugee from the film world, and should be seen as the abomination it is.
Unfortunately that is only my opinion, not industry standard.

It's not a deal breaker for me. I simply find it gets in the way of reading the synopsis. And reading a synopsis is only marginally less horrifying than writing one, so why add difficult to deadly.




20 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

Thank you. We've debated this on the forum before. I assumed it was a refugee from film scripts. I've collected a few just to see how films handle different things and noted the capped names.

I love the cover on that book. I also, small surprise, collect old books. I have a first edition of Allan Pinkerton's The Spy of the Rebellion. I came across a collection of diaries written by a young boy in Macon, Georgia called The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1869-1865. It's actually his seven diaries he wrote in five years. The last entry is "I am perhaps--" He doesn't finish it because he was indeed dying. His mother finishes the thought and the editor includes her letter to the boy's sister describing his last days. The companion book is written by a modern day doctor called I Am Perhaps Dying: The Medical Backstory of Spinal Tuberculosis Hidden in the Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham.

I have a stack of old children's books I won from a man who has the Forgotten Bookmarks blog and twitter account. Y'all should follow him. It's amazing what he finds in old books when he buys them.

Anyway, I've blathered on enough and surely someone else has posted by now. Y'all have a good day. I'm off for a day of babysitting adventures, Groot and Captain Underpants. We may bake cookies in between adventures.

janet haigh said...

I remember that book! :)

MA Hudson said...

We have that book. Didn’t realise it was so old. So, the moral is, use all caps and the monkeys will have a field day with you.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

What is this? I never even considered putting my character names in all caps for my synopsis. Is this really a thing? I am not doing it. Do I have too?

*spins off rodent wheel and collides with Venus*

Julie Weathers said...

Elise,

Yes, it's a thing. I see all kinds of queries and synopses with the capped names.

S.P. Bowers said...

My kids adore this book. My, now nine year old, used to act it out.

BrendaLynn said...

Oops, I did.
Synopses are the worst anyway. I get the idea—save time, cut to the chase etc—but it makes me feel like a commodity.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

And I thought all CAPS referred to someone with really bad teeth.

Can you tell I have a dentil appointment today?

Donnaeve said...

Hello Reefers!

Hm. There's always food for thought out here. I've submitted synopses with - gulp - all caps when intro'ing the characters for the first time. I heard/read somewhere it flags just that - you're intro'ing a new character. I heard/read it helps readers know you're intro'ing a new character, when after a page or so, suddenly Aunt Boopsie shows up. In this way she's not viewed as some oddball who slipped in. (not unless that angle serves your story, that is)

So far no one has slapped my hands, but now I'm wondering if they want to.

OT to today's post, but relevant to yesterday: A few wanted to know about writing on tough topics. First off, thank you all for the compliments on that.

Your questions aren't easy, but I think one of the most important steps, (IMO), is creating a sympathetic character a reader cares about, because then, if something BAD happens to that character, a reader will stick with the story because they have to know this character they're invested in is going to be okay.

Also, BrendaLynn pointed out something she read, "Write as if no one will read it." Exactly - or, as I've mentioned before, write without fear which to me is the same thing.

Fear is what keeps you from writing the truth. Fear is knowing what a real outcome is, yet writing it differently because you don't want to be embarrassed by writing such truth. I tackle tough topics (yet again) in my third book, THE FORGIVING KIND.

Hope this helps, but ask away if you have other ?'s.

Claire Bobrow said...

Like MA Hudson, I didn't realize the wonderful Caps For Sale was so old. It certainly stands the test of time!

I recently finished a picture book class where some of my fellow writers used a screenwriting format for their mss, with character names in all caps, centered, before dialogue sections. I'd never seen that done before, and for dialogue-heavy mss I thought it worked well.

Julie: thanks for the tip about the Forgotten Bookmarks Twitter account. I checked it out. Very cool!

KariV said...

I loved that book as a kid. I should go out and buy it for my littles. Definitely a must-have.

I put CAPS in my synopsis. I personally like it because it makes the names jump off the page to me. But I also like prologues and Oxford commas so...

I should be getting feedback on my synopsis today. I'm interested to see what my mentor had to say about my CAPS.

Joseph Snoe said...

I had to check what I did.

Findings: No caps in the query letter. Caps first time character mentioned in the synopsis.

Either I read to do that, or I thought it'd be easier for the reader to remember who the characters are.

Time to rethink it.

John Davis Frain said...

Guilty. (But the shark doesn't request a synopsis, so no fin slap! It's like driving 95 through Montana--if there's no radar gun, you're not speeding.)

Besides, in the list of abominations where JOHN'S guilt is on display, this one doesn't crack the Top 20.

Beth Carpenter said...

CAPS FOR SALE! I loved this book as a child, and my elementary school even put it on as a play. (I was in the chorus.) My mother used to volunteer to put on storytime at the library every Saturday, and this was one of her favorites to read. Thanks for the memories. And the advice.

C.M. Monson said...

I always thought you were supposed to CAP the Protagonist and Antagonist. Thank you, Opie, for asking the question. And, thank you, Janet, for answering it.

AJ Blythe said...

I find it hard to read CAPS in a synopsis so good to know our Queen feels the same way. Thanks for clarifying!!

I've never heard of this book (which brings to mind Bartholomew Cubbins). Growing up we only had a small library in town and our school library was burnt down by an arsonist. I feel I've missed out now =(

Lennon Faris said...

I've never even heard of this book either?! I feel like I'm missing something now from my childhood. Time to seek it out...

Joseph Snoe said...

Not really relevant but the stack of caps inspired it and it's been on my mind much of the day:

The NY Mets (a baseball team of ill repute) has a fan known as FEDORA MAN. He wears a Mets baseball jersey with FEDORA MAN across the back, and he wears between 6 and 12 fedoras to the games. Must be a pain to sit behind him.

Jamie McCullum said...

Great question and thanks.

I just finished a query and capitalized the main character's name. Whew!

Laura Wilson-Anderson said...

I love Caps for Sale! Funny thing is, I end up thinking about it every day at work - I have to recap test tubes after the tests are done (green caps, red caps...) and I can't help but think of it. :-)