Re: Formatting text messages

#1
How do you handle it? Just curious to see what people are favoring in terms of how to handle live text communication.
I tend to favor the source-quote-attribute method seeing as how text messaging is quoting from a text source tht is technically outside your own. either like this:

Jonny checked his messages on lukyday.<---here is the source of the text, a fictional service called lukyday

Quote:Bro why are you worried about this?--GeNNo, 4:35pm


Quote:Just paranoid, IDK--Jonny, 4:36pm
 In published media it looks like an indent quote. I've tried brackets, italics, underlines, ignoring the fact that it's a text service and treating it like a verbal quote. nothing seems to look right . SO I am just wondering what y'all are favoring

Re: Formatting text messages

#2
I generally treat it as normal text, but I just make sure to specify that it's being typed/written by a character rather than spoken.

Here's an excerpt from the story in my signature, with one of the spoilery names redacted:
Quote:    “hello?” Text on the screen appeared. “???”
    “She's alive?!” Shock exclaimed.
    “yeah! i... i think so??” [redacted] wrote.
    “She's alive!” Shock beamed at Macky, letting out a burst of elated laughter. “Wait, can she hear us?!”
    “Yes! We have a mic set up in the laptop so she can hear us,” Macky explained.
    More text quickly appeared on screen. “haha yea i can hear you!! but whats going on??? why is it a good thing that im alive? ok well... obviously its good im alive but”
So far nobody's complained about how I did it! Although I'm sure you could do some fancy formatting if you wanted to ;)

Re: Formatting text messages

#3
From what I've read, A lot of people treat text talk like any dialogue. It's kind of weird but text talk itself is also weird. 

If time stamps is very important which it rarely is, they would put it like this.

-- 10:01 PM --

Bobby: Did you hear the news?

Mike: What news?

Sally: About so & so?

Bobby: Yeah

Mike: Tell me more

Bobby: After school

-- 

Yeah, that is all I got, do you see how boring and ugly that is?  I'd rather read it as a simple narrative.

It's not like we have to know every single word texted, we just need the subject of what is happening and what is being discussed and how it affects the story. You can also just use it as a tease.




Re: Formatting text messages

#4
I think some of the better social media inserts I have seem come from Wildbow but I can’t remember the specifics. I know Wandering Inn also did some text stuff in one or two chapters.

I would say that if you properly want to go into that social media feel it needs a complete format transformation both when the Chatroom starts and ends. Timestamps for example would be a good break in the prose to signal the change in format. Most I’ve seen tend to include a list of online members at the beginning of the chat block or include technical messages of people entering and exiting the chatroom. Unlike regular dialogue in prose the actual text should be pure dialogue with some artefacts from how people text differently from how they talk and write, with technical annotations as artefacts from how they are in a chatroom with IT systems being relevant. This kind of Chat basically requires saying the name of the sender next to every one of their messages. <Brackets> are also useful for giving the Chat the computer feel that goes with texting, make thing look more like computer code.

Another thing I have seen has been left and right justify depending on the sender and middle justify for system messages.


It makes it resemble the format of instant messaging apps that justify the User’s messages on one side and all received messages on the other side. System announcements in games for example that focus on PvP and announcing when the first people do this or that thing tend to display announcements that go to all concurrent users in the centre of the screen.

Further than that you can look IT structures for the format of Forum chatrooms in code form as a way of inspiration. Using coding formats such as name.designation and such.

The biggest consideration will ultimately how jarring the formatting is to your readers (specifically) and how far you want to go for effect and how much you simplify for a smoother experience. This is also why I suggested adding a “break” to indicate the shift in format to make it easier. The blue tables you see everywhere on Royal Road is a good example of a format shift like this. A shift in format alters the entire experience of the content, like in Wildbow’s Worm it gave this background atmosphere of real people worriedly chatting about stuff happening in the world and disasters being the constant thing on the news and in media even interrupting personal conversations between relatives. The stat block blue tables have their own atmosphere for example and they probably make all those excessive amount of numbers and information easier to both read through or ignore compared to if they were written out as normal prose. Like those “Did you know?” Blocks in textbooks that everyone obviously read through diligently and did all the included exercises too.




You can also have the user names in all caps, or some format thing or other in all caps. Remember to use internet usernames rather than real names where appropriate. A lot of these Chatroom chapters tend to play on the anonymity of the usernames to make readers guess character identities by their behaviours and conversations.

Re: Formatting text messages

#5

The answer is differentiation. It needs to be different enough that you can sandwich your texts between speech and normal writing. That is, unless you are intentionally going to have huge group conversations, but that isn't really "texting" in the context of a story.

I believe the standard is italics for stuff like that, but stuff like indentation, font changes, alignment changes etc. could be used. Formatting variations is a path with a lot of issues, so I would say italics is left by default, with bold the weaker alternative. The change of language can be a good cue as well - short form words or l33tspeak. Make sure the voice is correct. Also, try not to lead into something (eg: He checked his messages. It said this.) Rather, just throw it into the story naturally. It will always be clunky if you are calling out the texts this way. 

I'll heavily suggest to not use quotations (already used for conversation), or direct attribution (colons, user tags). Both are confusing and jarring to process, although I might forgive use tags (eg: example above "--John") somewhat in a particular style. Still, it looks like a weird signature and will cause choppy writing. 

For example (red vs blue/green):

Hey was all he texted. Did I want to answer? A hey deserves a hey, I guess. A hey was sent back. Small h to show my irritation.

Hey --him
Did I want to answer? A hey deserves a hey, I guess.
hey --me
Small h to show my irritation.

  Hey --him
Did I want to answer? A hey deserves a hey, I guess.
  hey --me
Small h to show my irritation.

-

John had texted U wanna hang 2nite an hour ago. I would have said yes then, but now... no can, chasing girl.  It didn't take long to get an answer. Bros before hoes, dick. Get wet.

U wanna hang 2nite --John
I would have said yes then, but now...
No can, chasing girl --me
It didn't take long to get an answer
Bros before hoes, dick 
Get wet --John

  U wanna hang 2nite --John
I would have said yes then, but now...
  No can, chasing girl --me
It didn't take long to get an answer
  Bros before hoes, dick 
  Get wet --John



-

Even if you adjust the blue formatting, it is going to be tough to get the same flow. Lots of carriage returns, formatting, etc. A lot more time and effort would have to be used to make it equally good, without a lot to gain from it.

Standard disclaimer - there are lots of exceptions. Most revolve around longer conversations though, or a standard convention that becomes familiar because there is a lot of texting (eg: messaging in VR games).