Alternative Capitalization

This style of capitalization is new on the scene, but not as new as you might think! If you read Victorian era writing, you’ve actually seen this capitalization style. Remember when words like Death were capitalized because they were being used as a proper noun? That is an alternative capitalization strategy!

This style is more complex than sentence or line capitalization, but it is incredibly useful. Basically, line and sentence capitalization didn’t work for everyone, and after people stopped capitalizing metaphorical symbols, these people found they had to break out of the box, and do something different. They decided to take all the grammatical rules we know and memorized, and toss them out the window.

The main ones I’ll be talking about are going to be Breath Capitalization and Victorian Capitalization. These are used in spoken word and victorian era poetry. We can still see their uses today, however, as we combine and fiddle with things like emotional capitalization, which wraps up under Breath.

Breath Capitalization

This is when something is capitalized based on how you breathe and speak. For spoken poets, it’s their cheat sheet for when to raise their volume, breathe, speak softer, or change intonation. It goes hand in hand with an alternative punctuation style.

Instead, they use capitalization based on where they Want it to be to create EMPHASIS like we do while we TexT our friends late at night because “OH MY GOD I CANT BELIEVE HE JUST SAID THAT” is a lot easier to type than “Oh my god, I cannot believe he just said that!” on a phone. Both of them emphasize that whatever he just said, was crazy, but the first one matches breath capitalization+punctuation, and the other one matches sentence capitalization+punctuation.

Victorian Capitalization

While this style isn’t nearly as used, it is very useful for explaining how Alternative can be such a fun way to write. Back when Emily Dickinson was crafting her Great American Paperweight, she chose to capitalize words that were important somehow, but not always obviously important. They were words that deserved emphasis, but also words that required further investigation.

Today poets use this idea when they want to change inflection and tone in a poem. It also can indicate things like worth!

Working Together

Breath and Victorian capitalization styles can work together beautifully because when you want something to look a certain way, you can capitalize it to fit the weight of a page, and throw all of those nasty grammar rules out the window to create your own.

The beauty of poetry here is that as long as we are consistant with ourselves, people will be able to follow along and understand what we’re saying. People are programmed to recognize patterns, and we can use that to our advantage by creating a pattern and then using it consistently, and poetry readers will forgive us for not using a pattern they’re familiar with. In fact, a lot of poetry readers will be thrilled to see something unique.

Sentence Capitalization

To continue from a month ago with my series on capitalization in poetry, sentence capitalization is next.

This style of writing is the most common today. The more you read, the more you’ll see it. The style is pretty basic. Write your poem like you would write your prose. If you would capitalize it normally, then you would capitalize it in this style. The one caveat to it is that you would capitalize it as if you were writing in a paragraph, not lines and stanzas. Here’s how it goes, if it’s the beginning of a sentence or a proper noun, you capitalize. Basically, you can write your poem as a paragraph, and then add in all of your stanzas and lines, and you’ll have your capitalization spot on in this style.

The nuances of this style really allow the writer to explore the different aspects of poetry. It’s got enough class to handle a poem that rhymes, and enough system to handle a poem that doesn’t.

One of the reasons this style is something that most poets write with is because it handles nearly everything you can throw at it. Villanelle? Sure. Haiku? Of course! Dramatic reenactment of World War II? Definitely! This style allows the poet to avoid thinking about how they want to capitalize, and when to hit those buttons, and just write. It’s already how we naturally do things in every other aspect of our lives, so it’s a smooth transition.

Writing poetry becomes a thing that’s not very different from writing in a journal, or on a blog, aside from the style of word choice, and how often you hit enter.

For me, as a writer of poetry, and a reviewer of poetry, I find this style the easiest to delve into the meaning and content of the poem. It’s accessible, and I don’t have to stop and wonder about a certain word being capitalized.

I don’t always want to see this style though, sometimes, a poem needs to shout and that’s where one of the other styles comes into play. This style doesn’t allow a question about what should be capitalized. It doesn’t give you leeway to capitalize “anger” because you’re really angry, or “love” because you want to express that it’s not puppy love, but the big, capital ‘L’ kind. Those nuances are left to another capitalization style.

This style makes it more about the words you chose on an internal level, unless you pair it with breath punctuation. Breath punctuation is when you punctuate according to how you read the poem, rather than how the poem should grammatically be punctuated.

This combination can be enthralling, because everything looks right on the surface, with the capitalization, but the breath, the pauses, the waiting, the speed you have to read some sentences at without stopping for just a moment before you get out the next line is all there and together and it can be beautiful, or just make you gasp. But these things are unique to the poem, and how you want to write it as a poet.

It’s your choice what you want your voice to become. Your voice, how you want to present your words to the reader, has a lot to do with your choice of capitalization style for particular poems. This type of capitalization doesn’t surprise anyone, so if you’re trying to really make a statement, then this capitalization might not do it. You’d be relying on other things, like word choice, structure, punctuation, syntax, connotation, metaphor, and so on.

Still, if you look at poetry books today, many of the literary magazines like this capitalization the best. They’ll get on kicks of poems that lack capitalization too, and sometimes they’ll even publish really cool poems that capitalize according to emotion, but this style is one of the most popular ones.

That says a lot about it’s value.

In summary, this is the go-to style for most poets who aren’t trying to rock the boat with their capitalization.

The Theory of Friendships in Literature

This is sort of something I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while, so I’m going to write it out and you can agree or disagree, but I think it’s important to write out.

When a group of characters start a relationship, it is often the case that the writer will create a clear advantage for one person, and a clear disadvantage for another.

Let’s take some examples

Starting out the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man was very very tentative. They didn’t like each other, to put it bluntly. CA thought IM was a full of himself jerk, and IM thought CA was outdated and a goody goody. How is it that through the story, these two develop a bond?

My answer is the following formula.

  • A is more x, B is more y
  • B dislikes A for x[specific] or A dislikes B for y[specific]
  • B gains p from relationship with A or A gains z from relationship with B
  • A saves B
  • B develops a respect/trust/friendship for A
  • B saves A
  • A finally feels satisfied with B

If we look at this in context, it goes something like this for Captain America and Iron Man.

  • Captain America is physically stronger and more nationally driven, while Iron Man is much smarter with technology and a freer spirit to invent and create.
  • Iron Man dislikes Captain America for being such a goody goody
  • However, Iron Man has to follow Captain America’s leadership while Captain America has to use Iron Man for his innovative tools and information.
  • Captain America doesn’t let Iron Man grind up in the fans[I forget what they were called].
  • Iron Man develops a trust for Captain America’s ability to be punctual enough in the end, and to be able to be there when it counts.
  • Iron Man saves Captain America by throwing the Nuke into the sky. [He might have done it before this too at some point but this is the one I’m going to use.]
  • Captain America finally feels that Iron Man is worth having on the team because he will go all the way in the end if he needs to even if he doesn’t think he will ever need to.

Of course, this formula doesn’t necessarily develop friendship. What it shows developing is trust, in my opinion. You put two people in situations individually where they have to save each other, and they begin to understand that they can rely on each other to be safe. This key development of trust is necessary in two ways, A to B and B to A because once you’re not trusted by someone, you don’t always want to trust them unconditionally again.

We can see this working in more ways than just action movies too. Sometimes it’s something more elementary that is being used as a “save”

If we look at Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling uses this to develop the bond between Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

  • Hermione is smarter and a better wizard but Harry and Ron are more daring.
  • Harry and Ron are reluctant to keep Hermione around because she’s a girl and she doesn’t really fit in. She’s a know it all! [she followed them into the clutch of danger]
  • Hermione wants friendship and she feels like she gets that from Harry and Ron.
  • Hermione uses her smarts to get more information on the Philosopher’s stone and saves them from Fluffy, and the vines.
  • Harry and Ron realize just how useful having Hermione is for everything.
  • Harry and Ron save Hermione from being alone and in the future, protect her from bullying
  • The three of them remain close friends through the series saving each other countless times

Even if we look at some classics, like Pride and Prejudice, we can see this at play.

The initial bond between Darcy and Elizabeth is a bad one. Darcy doesn’t want to like Elizabeth, but he does, and Elizabeth does not like Darcy, but she can’t hurt her sister’s suitor’s friend to his face. That covers the first three. How do they save each other? Darcy saves Elizabeth from ruin when Lydia elopes, and Elizabeth saves Darcy from loneliness in the end when they actually get married. If you’ll notice, Elizabeth too was potentially going to be alone forever, and she too was saved by wedding Darcy because he’s discovered to be a good man and nothing like what she thought. In this way, when Elizabeth realizes that Darcy has saved her, she grows a very tight trust to him, and that trust allows Darcy to reassess and restate what he wants. Before this point, Darcy had every faith that Elizabeth was a beautiful woman who could make him happy, and in a way, she’s already saved him from being bored on a number of occasions.

I’d like to state that save, then, does not have to be something that is simply a physical act, but it can be an emotional one, or a metaphysical one as well. Within any conflict of person vs person, person vs self, person vs object, etc. there is a chance that someone else could step in, and help bring both, or one party out of the conflict by resolving it externally. If Jesus and Lucifer were fighting a war, and God stepped in and said No, Jesus wins, God saves Jesus. Likewise if a child is struggling with a jar of pickles and their parent steps in to open it for them, they are relieved from that conflict and thus, saved. Taking saved to the next level like this will allow us to develop better, tighter relationships through trust, without developing situations that our characters have to die in to be saved. The biggest potential for saving someone else is loneliness. Humans are pack animals, so to speak, we need other people to get along. There is all the potential in the world that one person could save another just by being a stranger who smiled at them.

So what happens if one of the pieces is missing? I think some of these are exaggerated points, to be honest. The key thing is that A saves B, and B saves A. As long as A and B both develop an understanding that the other person will have their back, that trust is going to be there on some level. Even between Villains and Heros there is a trust that goes into this relationship. The hero relies on the villain to not come up and shoot him in the head if he is developing overboard technology to take over the world. Likewise, the Villain is trusting that the Hero won’t shoot him in the head either. It is in their playbooks to avoid direct confrontation until the last minute, and when they do, not to kill each other. If that trust is broken, then, well, usually one party is dead and the story is over. Take Breaking Bad for instance, when Walter started being a complete crazy person, his partner lost faith in him and tried to quit, this is a break down of this trust, but because they both had, at one point in time, saved each other, his partner still didn’t ever think Walter would kill him.

If one of the sides has not saved the other, I think the biggest thing that happens is a weak friendship if there is friendship at all. Sometimes this happens, especially when one side is much weaker than the other and cannot possibly come up with a situation where they can save the other person. They can still form valuable relationships, but they are less valuable than if if that trust was formed, and not as long term.

How this is Applicable

Now that I’ve gone through and displayed the thoughts behind this, and some unique examples for how it can be used, I hope that people will see it as something they can use to develop trust between characters in situations where there wasn’t any trust in the novel to begin with, in a realistically accepted way.

To me, friendship and bonds are built through equivalent exchange. When both parties feel that it is valuable to keep the relationship, that is when they are most valuable to the individuals involved. Relationships, then, are an exchange of worth between two individuals. This requires trust that the other individual isn’t just going to suddenly drop out of nowhere and be useless with their information.

So, in writing stories, this is most useful because we can develop plots around trust development of two characters, and from then on, rely on that past experience to carry that trust until it is eroded past it’s worth, usually through A not saving B or B not saving A when they would have before. To regain this trust is harder than to form it originally because trust can break a lot easier than it can form.