Having read a couple of my posts on punctuation, a friend asked me about the exclamation mark. This is easy. In fiction it is pretty much only used to indicate a raised voice (‘Bob!’). The only exception is in fiction for teenage girls. Here there are many exclamation marks, together with rows of hearts to indicate the end of sections. The only real question is, how do I know that?
I met Kate Tym on a comedy course. At the time, she had a sideline in doing the sort of group tours of London advertised in Time Out, based on a combination of historical fact and the juicy bits from the Horrible Histories. But she also wrote novellas for Just17. Intrigued, I asked her to send me one. She sent two. My favourite was Too Cool to Care, and for those who want to avoid spoilers, stop now. I’m about to recount the plot.
The heroine (possibly Jess) goes to stay with her Gran in Yorkshire with two friends. It is snowing. Gran is away for much of the time, I can’t remember why. One day her friends look out of the window and see a boy clearing snow. This is Jeremy Archer. Jess tells her friends she hates him (of course) as he used to tease her at school. But when she does come to the window, she sees that he has grown up. Thus occasioning the best line of erotic fiction I have ever read: ‘His thighs strained against his jeans, as he pushed his shovel ever forward.’
Eventually, of course, obstacles are overcome. The three girls end up in the cottage with their respective beaus, snogging. Gran finally bursts in. (Where’s she been?) She turns on the light and says, ‘It’s an orgy! And Jeremy Archer, I thought you were a nice boy.’ To which our heroine replies, ‘He is Gran, he is.’
Writers could learn a lot from this. It’s short, funny, and to the point.
As for the exclamation marks, my impression is that many of the readers go on using them for the rest of their lives. Mainly in texts and emails.