So, you want to learn how to include text messages in your story but you don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Phones have become such an integral part of our everyday lives that it’s now hard to imagine life without them. Because these gadgets are so normalized for the new generation of readers, adding text messages can help your story feel more dynamic and relatable.
Text messages are a useful way for characters to communicate information that would otherwise be difficult to express through regular dialogue. In the following blog, you’ll find a detailed guide on how to include text messages in your story, when you should include them, and the best way to format them for your novel.
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When to include Text Messaging in your story
Before deciding to include a text message conversation in your story, you need to decide the reason why they’re there. This element of your story must have some kind of purpose whether that be to advance your plot or reveal more about your characters. Finding the right opportunities and the best time to include instant messages in your story plays a huge part and how it comes across to your audience. The most important thing is not to include unnecessary messages that don’t benefit your story at all. In the following section, I’ll go more in-depth into each reason you may have to include text messages as well as examples of how to do it.
1. Text conversation that showcases what your character is thinking or feeling
The first way to include texts into your story is by writing conversations that showcase what your character may be feeling or thinking without having to directly narrate it.
Julien pulled out his phone with shaky hands and typed:
I can’t believe you’d do that to me…I trusted you and you ruined me.
It wasn’t my intention, I swear
Martin was right about you all along, you’re a liar and a cheat.
Fuck off Jules
In this conversation, it is easy for the readers to understand the character’s feelings and thoughts. Here you can see that Julien feels betrayed whilst the other character feels attacked. This is a good example of how text messages can help your readers understand your characters’ emotions and what they’re going through.
2. Text messages that advance your plot
Another good way to use text messages in your story is to advance your plot. You can do this in multiple ways depending on what works for your story. You can use them to introduce a new character, reveal a plot twist, foreshadow the future, and much more. Here are a couple of examples below:
Example #1: A Love Story Turned Sour
MAI..you’ll never guess what just happened
I just saw Chris at the tea place
Chris, as in, Chelsea’s husband?
Yeah, that Chris!
I was just waiting in line for my boba and when I saw him
from the corner of my eye kissing Mandy
WTF? That bastard is cheating on Chelsea!
And who the hell is Mandy?
Example #2: The Mysterious New Neighbour
Connie: Jess are you awake?
Jess: Yeah I am, why?
Connie: You know how I told you that Lexie and her husband moved out of their place a couple of months ago
Connie: Well, a guy just moved in and let me tell you he’s hot as fuck lol, should I go over and introduce myself?
Jess: Uh YES, are you kidding?
There is never any fresh meat in this fucking town so I say go for it lmao
3. Text messages that reveal intentions or develop character relationships
You can use text messages to reveal your characters’ true intentions and/or develop the relationship between your characters. Here are some examples of how to do this:
Example #1: Reveal a Character’s True Intentions
So, I’ve go some news…
Good news or bad news?
Well, good and bad
What do you mean? Spit it out already!
I got second place which is awesome but you know who came first?
That bitch Camille
Lmao, I thought you liked her though
No, are you crazy?!
I just pretended to be her friend to stay on her good side
Example #2: Develop the relationship between characters
Hey Jan, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about how
I reacted last night. I was just overwhelmed by the
whole situation and I got triggered
Hey, thanks for the apology, means a lot yk. Why were you triggered?
I went through a similar situation in the past and last night I felt
like it was all happening again.
Oh shit, I didn’t know that, yeah that explains a lot!
Why didn’t you tell me before?
Idk honestly, I was just nervous I guess..
You don’t have to be yk,
you can always tell me these things <3
4. Text Messages that showcase characters’ personalities
Another great way to use text messages in your story is to showcase your characters’ different personalities. You can do this by using spelling, specific expressions, sayings, and even abbreviations to help your audience understand how our characters speak, think, and write.
Bitch!! Did you hear the nws
No, what news?
You knw you really gotta get your shit tgther Jess!
But….aprtly, Matt dmped Riley in frnt of
the WHOLE CLASS It was EPIC!
Yeah I know, I need to get on social media lmao.
No way! I can’t believe that happened!
In this short example, you can see the different personalities of both characters. The first girl is more expressive, blunt, and extroverted. She doesn’t care to text with proper grammar and just says what’s on her mind. On the other hand, the second character is more mellow, and introverted and takes her time to text with proper spelling and punctuation.
How to format text message dialogue
There are many ways to format text dialogue. The first one is very simple but only works if there are only a few messages being exchanged. If that is the case, there is no need to format the text messages in a specific way. They can simply be interwoven in the paragraph itself.
Matt was upset and angry but most of all, he was confused by the whole ordeal. So, he picked up his found and hesitantly typed in “I thought we were friends and you stabbed me in the back. I just want to know why did you do it? What did Stephen promise you?”.
In this example, there is no need to start a new paragraph or use a different font to show that your characters are engaging in a text conversation. The text message is simply included in the paragraph.
However, If the messages are more frequent and rapid then they should stand out from the remaining text because it will be less confusing for your readers. Here are all the different ways you can potentially format your text message conversations in your story.
Quotation Marks & Italics
As a writer, you don’t have to format text conversations in a complicated way or make things harder for yourself unless you want to showcase a specific writing style. The most basic format for writing text messages is to use quotation marks.
Martin went up the stairs, grabbed his phone, and typed furiously:
“What did you do?!”
“I didn’t do jack shit, I swear to god”
“Liar, I found the key in your room”
For most stories, quotation marks are all you need to format your text messages. However, since quotation marks are also used quite often to showcase characters speaking, you can use italics instead.
Josie got up, whipped out her phone from her back pocket, and searched for Lizzie’s name.
Where are you, she typed
In the library
Alright, I’m coming now! You’re not going to believe what I just saw
Most of the time, these two methods are the only ones you’ll need to write text messages in your story. However, for stories that have a lot of other interesting components such as flashbacks, letters, or even internal dialogues that are written with quotation marks or italics, things can get confusing for the reader. In this case, you might want to use a different, more original approach when formatting your text conversation to differentiate it from the other aspects of your story. The two ways you can do that are by writing your character’s messages in bold or by using graphics.
Bold & Graphics
Writing in bold is a really great way to make certain parts of your story stand out. Here is an example of how to write text messages in bold:
Jimmy frantically typed:
Where did you go?
Why? I wasn’t done talking to you
I have nothing left to say to you Jim
Adding graphics is another great way to make certain parts of your story stand out. Here is a great example of a book written with graphics:
Texting in a Group Chats
We have already gone over when and how to write text messages in your story, but what about group chats? Do the same rules apply or do you need to consider other factors to decide how to format your text conversations? Well, for the most part, very similar rules apply when it comes to chat rooms versus one-on-one texting.
As mentioned above, the text conversations will still need to serve a specific purpose in your story to be relevant and you can format the conversations using quotation marks, italics, bold or graphics depending on your story needs and your personal preference.
However, when it comes to group chat texts or conversations in an online community, there are a couple of different aspects that you need to consider as a writer. The biggest difference is that you need to make sure your readers understand who is texting. Because there are multiple different speakers in group conversations, it’s easier for your readers to get confused. Your job is to make all the speakers as clear as possible. The easiest way to do this is by simply writing the name of each speaker like so:
Janette: Did you guys hear about the plane crash?
Koby: Yeah I saw it on the news!
Jean: That shit is crazy fr. I can’t believe this is real life rn
Sasha: The video was insane..did anyone survive tho?
Janette: No idea, theres not much info on the internet rn
For group chats, it’s best to keep everything short, concise, and simple to avoid confusing your readers. So try writing short sentences for each character and leave out any unnecessary detail.
Including text messages in your story can be a great way to keep your storytelling dynamic and interesting for your readers. You can use these conversations to advance your plot and further develop your characters. There is no singular right way to include text messaging in your story. You just need to find what method works best for you and your story.
So, you can choose to keep things simple or get creative with how you format text conversations. However, it’s super important that the format you choose to write in is consistent throughout your story. Inconsistency can throw off your readers. Another important tip to keep in mind is to always make sure your reader knows which character is texting (unless you purposefully want to leave your readers in the dark to add an element of mystery). The same techniques and advice can be used for different mediums like phone calls or emails.