Apparently, I think you’re stupid.

From the post ‘4 Writing Crutches That Insult A Reader’s Intelligence‘, on Kristen Lamb’s blog, after the usual “NEVER USE ADVERBS OR YOU SUCK” advice*:

In fiction, bold font and italics are almost never acceptable. Again, if the prose is well written, the reader will stress the word(s) in his head. Trust me. We don’t need to hold our reader’s hand, or brain, or whatever.

Bold font I’ll give her, because in fiction, bold font is the exclusive domain of things like chapter headings and the like. Italics, on the other hand… I don’t agree that “well-written prose” automatically equals the reader “stress[ing] the word(s) in his head”. Let’s try an experiment!

Here I have a passage from First Flight, italics removed. Can you tell what’s supposed to be emphasized?

The top came open easily, and he stared. Eggs. LOTS of eggs. More eggs than he’d ever seen in his whole life, as far as he knew. Chris picked one out and held it up, suddenly realizing that he didn’t know how to get them open. He needed help. He needed a tool. He needed… a spoon.

And here’s the same one, with the intelligence-insulting italics in place:

The top came open easily, and he stared. Eggs. LOTS of eggs. More eggs than he’d ever seen in his whole life, as far as he knew. Chris picked one out and held it up, suddenly realizing that he didn’t know how to get them open. He needed help. He needed a tool. He needed… a spoon.

I don’t use italics because I think my readers are stupid. I use italics because I want my readers to have the story the way I see and hear it in my own head. That’s what they’re looking for, after all–the story that I am telling. Don’t I owe it to them to tell it the way it and the characters demand it be told?

As usual, the post ignores dialogue entirely. Here’s another little experiment with italics, this time with Benny and Phil. (This scene is in first-person, from Phil’s agrammatical POV.)

“Will was drunk and he was being silly. Was that it?” I was gonna say no, but he kept talkin’. “Or are you planning to kill me?”

“Kill–Sweet Jesus! What the hell?” I stared at him, my mouth flappin’ ’cause I din’t know what to say about that. Din’t he know me? “What the hell? Why the hell would y’think that? I ain’t gonna kill you, Benny; I ain’t even thought about it. Kill you? You lose your mind or somethin’?”

Benny shrugged. “You’ve heard the other guys talking about that kind of thing. It’s happened before.”

Where does Phil’s emphasis fall? How do those words sound, what cadence do they follow?

Here’s the original version:

“Will was drunk and he was being silly. Was that it?” I was gonna say no, but he kept talkin’. “Or are you planning to kill me?”

“Kill–Sweet Jesus! What the hell?” I stared at him, my mouth flappin’ ’cause I din’t know what to say about that. Din’t he know me? “What the hell? Why the hell would y’think that? I ain’t gonna kill you, Benny; I ain’t even thought about it. Kill you? You lose your mind or somethin’?”

Benny shrugged. “You’ve heard the other guys talking about that kind of thing. It’s happened before.”

So did that make you feel stupid? I hope not, because all that was supposed to happen was that you were supposed to hear Phil’s voice, loud and clear.

I’m the sort of person who, if they were going to insult someone, would make it a bit more obvious than through the use of formatting in my writing.

* Which, to be absolutely fair, she did** temper with the note that one can use adverbs as long as you weren’t pedestrian about it.

** This is non-fiction, so it’s okay to use italics.

I’m not being “difficult”, I truly want to know.

Why is it that all of my stories, whether they contain explicit sex or not, automatically receive the highest (or second-highest) ‘heat’ ratings from certain publishers? How is GLBTAQ? content automatically on equal footing with BDSM/three-/more-some stories?

For example, my bizarre little thing that’s been eating my brain, lately, has a total of four described kisses, all of which are basically pecks on the mouth. That’s it. There’s some passing mention of other kisses, but you’ve essentially read how they’re described, in all of their glorious lack of detail.

Yet, because the kisser and the kissee are both male, according to at least TWO publishers’ guidelines, that story? Has to be rated at least the same as Awydd — which is chock-full of D/s, bondage, spanking, graphic language, and anal sex.

Nick and Brick (who are not twins) haven’t even had more than their pecks; the only “bad” word that’s been used in the story is ‘whore’ (and ‘strumpet’, now that I think of it), but they’re the same as Max and Trev’s Fantasy-Fulfillment Story.

I’m sorry, I really, really don’t fucking get it. I mean, maybe I’m stupid or something — that’s always a possibility — but I can’t see it. I just can’t figure out why I’m supposed to essentially put an R rating on something that’s PG at best, at the moment, just because it’s got a couple of guys kissing in. They claim it applies unilaterally to lesbian, bi, and trans content, too; wonder if that’s really true — after all, everyone knows two girls kissing is hawt, not nasty. [/sarcasm]

My brain hurts.

From a publishers Do Not Want! list: Sexual abuse of minors, including exposure to sexual acts. This includes consensual acts by anyone under 18.

I’m sorry, how is it that “consensual” and “abuse” end up being synonyms? Could someone PLEASE explain that to me, in words of one syllable or less? Because I’m pretty sure that that’s the only way I’ll EVER understand it.

Two seventeen-years-and-three-hundred-sixty-four-days-old people getting it on, because they’re horny and in love = abuse. Yeah, no, still not working for me.

An adult and a 12-year-old? That’s wrong. An 18-year-old and a 17-year-old? Depends on the circumstances. I don’t think it automatically constitutes abuse; and if they’re both saying YES then I’m even more lost as to how it can be abuse. (Especially if it’s all the 17-year-old’s idea.)

This sort of thing is exactly why I’d make a horrible juror — I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from asking questions of/arguing with the lawyers.