1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Punctuation What about This? ---> !

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Catrin Lewis, Jan 28, 2017.

    What's your feeling, opinion, practice, whatever, about using exclamation points/marks in modern fiction?

    Does it make a difference to you if the sentence is narrative or dialogue?

    (Here's my present opinion on it, if anyone's interested.)
     
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  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Use very sparingly. I don't think I've ever used it in narrative but do very occasionally in dialogue. Maybe 2-3 times per manuscript?

    I stopped reading at least one book because the number of exclamation marks was distracting.
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In dialogue (which includes internal thought), if and when it feels appropriate. Not too much yelling goes in my stories, though, so I would say rarely. In narrative, no. There's no reason for my third person narrator to be speaking with such emphasis.
     
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  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Out of curiosity, I went through my Calibre library and did a search of exclamation points for some of my favorite titles...

    938 - DUNE, Frank Herbert
    364 - Perdido Street Station, China Miéville
    347 - Ringworld, Larry Niven
    365 - The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, Storm Constantine
    450 - Lilith's Brood (Xenogenesis omnibus), Octavia Butler

    I think it's safe to say they get used in works that have been very well received. All of the above books are very popular in their genre.
     
  5. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Supporter Contributor

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    I probably overuse them, but I also don't really worry about it. Most of the advice I read regarding them is similar to what Tenderiser said, but I can't imagine having so few in my story. It'd just feel so dry! I figure if someone doesn't read my book because of too many exclamation points, they probably won't like my style anyway. That said, I do try to reduce their number to a reasonable level.

    ETA: As a reader, I don't mind them if they don't end every other sentence.
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Only where applicable. Though I use tags to avoid having to use them for the most part. :)
     
  7. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The truth? One of my fellow writers' group members told me this morning it's a Rule in modern fiction to use no exclamation points at all. Unfortunately, the other member was out of the room trying to get the key to the WiFi when this was said and didn't have the chance to comment. And I, like a good critiquee, was keeping my yap shut.

    I went over the two chapters for our next meeting and got rid of maybe half of the EPs before uploading the doc. But not all! I hope that one member will allow me the freedom to exercise my judgement on the matter and not kill herself flagging every last one I use.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I first started writing in earnest, I was told - by MANY - that unless I had an iron-clad reason for making my MC gay, then I should not do it, that I "had" to make it a traditional straight relationship.

    Poppycock.
     
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  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    :rolleyes: Another made-up, bullshit rule.

    Exclamation points are like anything else--use them too much and they become a distraction. How much is "too much" depends on the reader, the genre, and the story itself.

    If multiple readers were pointing it out then you'd probably have a problem. But one person with a vendetta against them? Nah.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It's one thing to say, "This character has so many exclamation points at the end of her sentences, she sounds like a ditz. It's really distracting and you may want to cut most of them out," vs. "Kill them all! It's Da Roooooolzzzzz!!!"
     
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  11. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Supporter Contributor

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    I just read your "present opinion on it." Very funny.
    Oh, dear, that didn't come out right. Let me try again:
    Very funny!
    There, that's better. :D
     
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  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Exactly. The one sounds like snark served very dry. The other, like enthusiasm.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, my. The first draft of my novel was RIDDEN with exclamation marks. Not—in my defense—in the narrative. But holy mud. My characters certainly got excited whenever they said something.

    In one of my edits, I went through and removed ALL exclamation marks. Every single one. Then later, after I'd had a chance to get some distance on it, I went back and restored a few. It made a lot of difference. Each exclamation mark now does its job. In the first draft, their influence was diluted by how many there were. Not to mention, it made the whole story look daft as a brush.

    Like so many other things, a good approach to take is "when in doubt, leave them out."

    .......this is fun........


    Oh, my! The first draft of my novel was RIDDEN with exclamation marks! Not—in my defense—in the narrative. But holy mud! My characters certainly got excited whenever they said something!

    In one of my edits, I went through and removed ALL exclamation marks! Every single one!!! Then later, after I'd had a chance to get some distance on it, I went back and restored a few. It made a lot of difference! Each exclamation mark now does its job. In the first draft, their influence was diluted by how many there were. Not to mention, it made the whole story look daft as a brush!

    Like so many other things, a good approach to take is "when in doubt, leave them out!"
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
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  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    Holy donkey balls! Was that in the first book or all seven?
     
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  15. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Holy fook, I have a lot more exclamation marks in my novels that I thought I did. Fuck knows how many were in that book I couldn't read... must have been thousands.

    -slinks off-
     
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  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nope, that's just the original DUNE (1965). I was pretty taken aback as well. :ohno: :-D Lilith's Brood (also called Xenogenesis) is an omnibus of three of Octavia Butler's books: Dawn, Imago, and Adulthood Rights, so I would say that of all the titles I looked, she probably has the least use of exclamation points, all things considered.
     
  17. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I just checked my current WIP. I estimated I'd have used 3... turns out to be ten times that many. And I'm only 45K words in.

    They're sneaky little devils, aren't they?
     
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  18. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    29118C3A-6535-4472-9F4E-AA5359DCB51F-342-000000684DE62617_tmp.jpg 183EFC64-A634-456A-B8DF-880C6FDBEBC6-342-000000684E00D3D0_tmp.jpg Like everything, it has its place and utility.

    Somewhat related, someone reduced various works of classical literature into their punctuation, and is selling posters of them (From Jane Eyre to A Tale of Two Cities to Peter Pan, etc.)

    www.c82.net/work/?id=347

    It's interesting which ones you can spot exclamation points in, and with what frequency. The attached is from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and—as might be expected—it's riddled with them.

    It also gets interesting the dialogue to narration ratio, as demonstrated by the placement & frequency of quotation marks.

    Anyway, I really liked your feelings on the use of exclamation points. (I also wouldn't mind your use of "spluttered" as a tag, or resorting to adverbs or adjectives or that high count of worthless nouns when it suits you. Everything of course has its place and limitations. Writers should just know their tools, each's pros & cons, and use them effectively, in their own way.)
     
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  19. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Supporter Contributor

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    That's a really good idea. I'll have to try it in a later draft.

    :supergrin:
     
  20. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yeah, I estimated 2-3 and I have, erm, 119. 84k words. And this has been through external edits...
     
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  21. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    Yeah, there's a not of "no-no" things in Dune. Herbert will flip POV inside of somebody else's dialogue and he has an italicized thought quote like every third sentence. Still one of my favorites though...

    And 266 exclamations out of 98k words for me. Damn, thanks a lot for whomever started this game... now I want to punch myself.
     
  22. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    Looks like I have 15 in a 54k unfinished novel (I mostly write shorts but everyone else is talking about novels and I felt left out [if I add an exclamation point here will it convey that I'm not being serious? Hmm]). Most of them crop up in bunches, where a lot of shouting is going on, with the rest being isolated exclamations like "Oh!", "Hey!", and "[character name]!". Not sure what if anything can be gleaned from that. I'm not currently working on or editing this beast so I'm going to make a note to myself to think about it later, and this note will probably just be an interrobang as a hilarious prank on future-Izzy.

    In general I echo @Wreybies - I'm only going to use them in dialog because my 3p narrator doesn't tend to be emphatic. I just apparently have a bit more yelling in my stories. I can't think of any instance where frequent exclamation points have ever turned me off reading something? I guess I don't see them as a big deal.

    The punctuation that gets under my skin (mostly because I used to overuse them to a painful degree) is the ellipsis ...

    eta: As another fun(?) exercise, I searched the above wip for 'fuck', which I try to mostly avoid in prose but absolutely use as punctuation in speech, and came up with 108. Whoops.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
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  23. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Actually, if you all don't mind me asking,

    How you guys feel about using ! in an ecstatic state? As in, the character is so intoxicated (be it drugs, sex, music etc.) that she or he is overwhelmed. Do you guys feel that context/subtext excuses the overuse of it? I've been playing around with the idea but I am not sure if would achieve the effect I am aiming for, or just be an annoyance.
     
  24. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That's what most of mine seemed to be when I skimmed. It does look a little strange for a character to catch sight of someone and say, "Sam." instead of "Sam!" The former reads like they're not happy to see Sam.

    I had a similar number before editing. :D I think I ended up with 17.
     
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  25. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    I did that with my first novel, came up 36 times. Whittled it down to about 30.

    Pretty sure in the last Romance novel I read there was nearly 150-160 or more.
    It showed up at least once per page, and sometime multiple times when it skipped a page. :p
     
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