NaNoWriMo is almost wrapping up. As you know, my story’s main characters are animals. When I first began my writing venture, I sought ways of representing how non-humans see and experience the world. As a reader, I’m a big fan of stream of consciousness writing and other techniques that help get inside the heads of characters. The idea of strategic use of experimental punctuation was inspired by the wonderful non-fiction book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. He uses a series of semi-colons ::::::::::: to great effect. “House of Leaves” is another well-known book that uses experimental typography — such as text color, size, and layout — as punctuation.
Herve Bazin was a French writer who invented several adorable punctuation marks:
In Strange Spark, I sought to continue the tradition of experimental punctuation without making the narrative too bizarre or difficult to follow. Examples of some punctuation that I use in the series include:
1. Herve Bazin’s lovemark. I use it to express love, gratitude, and similar states.
2. The well-known interrobang: ‽ this useful mark — an exclammatory questionmark — needs no introduction.
3. Daggers: ‡ I use these usually in pairs as a visual representation of fear and the smell of danger.
4. Strategic use of color, layout, asemic writing, and textboxes.
Some people may object to such experiments, calling them gratuitious or unnecessary. I understand these objections. However, writing is a creative pursuit and I value any technique that can express a character’s state of mind. Alternative punctuation is one way of doing this, and I particularly enjoy it because of how visual it can be. Animals do not think in words or language. Instead, their thoughts are filled with instinct, smells, colors, images, and sensations. By using color, textboxes, and similar visual and experimental techniques, I can further explore their minds.
Of course, a fine line exists between experimental and interesting and experimental and ridiculous (I’m looking at you, “Alphabetical Africa”). This division seems to come down to a single point: does the gimmick further the story, the plot, the characters, or does it exist just to be different?
Hopefully readers will find Strange Spark’s experiments to be of the enlightening kind!
How To Make a Modern Novel (www.theguardian.com)