2

When writing in the first person, how do you visually describe details of a specific object, such as words written on a piece of paper?

Take this for example:

What was his name? That's something he never bothered with before - something completely irrelevant to him over the past few days. He looked around the room for ideas, his eyes landing on a scrap of paper half torn vertically with rough handwritten letters, the second halves of the words showing.

'Ress.'

'En.'

"I - my name is Ressen."

The primary issues with this is that is that I want to reveal a piece of information, primarily the letters 'Ress' and 'En' that appear above and below each other respectively. However, I'm unsure of the correct way to format this. I have seen that some authors center the text that they are aiming to convey through an image of the paper that's ripped, with the text inside of it. However, I also see some authors do what I have included in my example, and others centering it.

Is there some kind of universal method to do something like this?

4
  • Maybe tangential to your actual question, but worth nothing the passage comes across as contrived; like a backronym, it feels like you decided on the name "Ressen" and then retroactively created a situation where your character is forced to choose it. Part of this is the cliche "desperately look around the the room to come up with a name on demand" and part of it is the convenient half-torn paper with two unusual word-endings which happen to create a phonetically acceptable English word just lying around (think about how often that happens in your real life).
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 18 '17 at 11:31
  • Your example is not written in the first person, but the third ("he"). Also, if those are the second halves or words, do not use capital letters, as those indicate the beginning of a word. Maybe write "...ress ...en" (on two lines).
    – user5645
    Jan 18 '17 at 12:25
  • 1
    I agree with @what on the de-capita(liza)tion of the second halves of the words and adding ellipses. What puzzles me is why your character, while realizing that those are second halves, chooses to compose a name for himself out of them, but it is irrelevant to the question, so be it.
    – Lew
    Jan 18 '17 at 15:13
  • 1
    To be honest the example was something I just came up with out of the blue, after wondering how to write a reveal of information in a visual sense. It mostly came across to me when I realized there were mystery novels I've seen that show in a different font and completely indented some text that has missing parts to it so they don't have to describe a long string of text with each intrinsic detail.
    – Kyle Li
    Jan 19 '17 at 2:07
1

If you want to hide information, you could always do this though an image. I've seen authors of mystery novels use inserts centered on the page that are designed to look like letters. In terms of publishing, it shouldn't be an issue.

A good example of this is the Book of Ember.

1
  • 1
    That's a great example, and fits the idea perfectly.
    – Kyle Li
    Jan 29 '17 at 20:25
1

One of the more common methods I've come across is to actually put the intended writing, within your writing and call it out specially by indenting it and or italicizing it.

Ex...

What was his name? That's something he never bothered with before - something completely irrelevant to him over the past few days. He looked around the room for ideas, his eyes landing on a scrap of paper half torn vertically with rough handwritten letters, the second halves of the words showing:

Ress.

En.

Please find the enclosed heating bill....

Yes! That must be it, his name must be Ressen. Why his name was on two lines instead of one, made no difference, he had a name and that was what mattered for the moment.

I've seen several different formats for this with some combination of bold, italicize, indentation, and/or even putting an actual picture of the torn piece of paper you're describing within the written text. As per a "standard" format, I've not seen any universal one for all forms of writing. Maybe choose what makes sense for the medium you're writing in.

1
  • Thanks for the idea of including more information to flesh it out! The main idea of the words however, are that they are the endings of the two words 'Fortress' and 'Seven', just two random words I plucked out that might have some random meaning.
    – Kyle Li
    Jan 21 '17 at 5:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.