Friday, September 7, 2012

Finding Action in Your Work-in-Progress & When to Italicize Foreign Words

A few links of note:

A great piece by the super-smart Robin Black on how to find those places in your story where action can (and probably should) arise:

These days whenever I hit that still and frightening place in my work, instead of pushing forward as I used to try to do, I go back, convinced that I will find a moment of decision gloriously brimming with might have beens. I look for lines like: I thought of telling him what had happened the night before, but decided against it.  Or, I could have run after her and pleaded my case, but instead, went back inside. Or, She stared at the phone for a very long while, but never picked it up.  In other words, I look for the points of inaction that my characters might themselves later regret, those decisions that might one day inspire in them the rich fictions of which we are all such gifted authors when we regret having chosen the more passive, the safer of two possible paths.


The issue of whether or not to italicize foreign words in a story/book fascinates me.  I know the convention is to do so, but what if the person speaking is a native speaker of the “foreign” language?  What if the English speaker’s words are the “foreign” ones within the setting?  How much attention does one want to draw to a simple, “hola amigos”?All sorts of questions arise…and here’s an interesting piece in which various authors and editors examines the issue:

Toni Plummer (Editor at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press and the author of The Bolero of Andi Rowe, Curbstone 2011): “Our house style dictates that we italicize foreign words. (I believe there are some foreign words that are so much a part of American culture now, that they aren’t italicized anymore.) Of course, for many writers who grew up speaking Spanish, Spanish isn’t considered a foreign language and wouldn’t be considered foreign to the characters in their books either. It’s understandable then if they want the Spanish to be treated like English and not set apart by italics.

“I give my authors the choice.”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.