Saturday, March 17, 2012


I write a lot about crazy people, about people who scream and vent their frustrations through dialogue. There's Vivien Slate in SLATE, Mrs. Gordon in HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, the villain (I won't give it away here) in TOWNHOUSE, and Hannah in HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME AGAIN and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. Often with these characters I'll write a line of dialogue where the character screams, and having all the letters lower-case just doesn't feel like enough.

When Mrs. Gordon comes across Cameron and Charisma kissing passionately in the back of her library, she shouts at them, "What in God's name is going on over here?" But I wanted to make the reader understand that she was crazy angry, not just angry, so I wrote it in the book as, "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS GOING ON OVER HERE?" I like to think of characters shouting in all uppercase letters as screaming so loud the other characters' eardrums might explode. I used this technique a lot in my first four books and didn't think much of it, until some of the reviews started coming in...

  • From Ashley at Goodreads: "He just wrote with these little quirks that bugged me--like his overuse CAPITALIZING WORDS. ENTIRE SENTENCES WOULD BE CAPITALIZED, AND IT JUST MADE EVERYONE SEEM LIKE THEY WERE HARD OF HEARING AND SHOUTED ALL THE TIME. You see how that starts to lose its potency the more you read it?"
  • From Amie at Goodreads: "There was also a severe over-use of the word “shout” in all of its verb forms (shout, shouting, shouted). This in combination with capital letters EVERYTIME SOMEONE WAS UPSET made me feel like I was being screamed at through the whole book."
  • From Britta at Goodreads: "Also, I didn't like how way too many questions ended with a "!" instead of an "?", and the letters would be in all caps, like this - WHY IS EVERYTHING IN CAPS! I understand that what you are trying to say is supposed to have emphasis, but it sort of started to lose its meaning when everything was written this way."
The use of capitalizing every letter in sentence was something I didn't think would bother readers, but now that I know it does, let me promise this, and let me promise it in big fat letters: I HAVE STOPPED USING CAPS IN FULL SENTENCES! I'm in the middle of the final revision of my new YA horror book The Vampire Underground, and I'm only using all-capitalized words sparingly. I'll have a character shout a word in all caps here and then, but rarely

For now? I think the exclamation point will suffice.

Look for THE VAMPIRE UNDERGROUND, the first book in a new YA horror series, on Amazon this April!

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