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Old 03-23-2010, 02:58 PM   #1
Elfwreck
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Advice for script format book

This is an aesthetic, rather than technical, question. I'm seeking advice on how to best format a script for ebook reading. The standard line-between-each-speaker seems to leave a lot of blank spaces, especially when the spoken parts are often single words or very short dialogue exchanges.

Background: I've got a book I'm planning to convert (and if I can sort out the copyright issues, release widely)--The Tales of Hoffman, one of the transcript-based books about the Chicago 8/7 conspiracy trial. The trial text itself is public domain; the formatting & editors' notes are not. (I'm considering making two versions--one for me with all the original content; one to release, with just the transcript sections & my own editorial notes.)

Trying to decide on formatting. For me, I'll play with page layout settings until I find one I'm happy with, and make a PDF sized for my reader. But I'd like to be able to release parts of it on the web, and make it ePub-able, and need some advice about markup and display options, 'cos this isn't in standard paragraphs.

I could potentially put the speakers' names in bold, or instead of indenting initial lines of paragraphs, indent everything else. (I know indents are troublesome things in HTML, and I'm not competent with CSS. But I suppose I could learn.) Or I could do something else. There are sections with actual paragraphs rather than dialogue (long explanations by various witnesses, and exhibits read into the record), and those could be formatted more normally.

Attaching a 2-page sample, which should be well within fair use, no matter what the overall copyright status is. Theoretically, only the italicized parts should be copyrighted.
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File Type: pdf Hoffman_pgs125-6.pdf (90.2 KB, 197 views)
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Old 03-24-2010, 05:25 AM   #2
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I'd try hanging indent, in the Q/A fragment. With CSS it could be something like:

Code:
p { margin-left: 1em; text-indent: -1em; }
p.continuation { text-indent: 0; }
p.note { margin: 0.5em 2em; font-style: italic; }
span.speaker { font-weight: bold; }
Code:
<p><span class="speaker">Mr. Whatever</span>: This is someone speaking.</p>
<p class="continuation">This is another paragraph spoken by the same person.</p>

<p class="note">This is a transcriber's note, explanation or remark</p>

<p><span class="speaker">Mr. Something</span>: This is a second person speaking.</p>
Note the p.continuation has no negative indent in the first line, and the p.note has some vertical margin, as well as wider left and right margins.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:37 AM   #3
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Wow, I can actually follow that. I've been trying the "learn CSS by visual osmosis" plan. I was hoping that if I skimmed over enough posts that include CSS, it'd gradually start to be coherent information, and apparently it's working.

Not sure about using em for margins; that gets bigger when the font gets bigger. (OTOH, 1em should not be so huge as to be disruptive, even if shown at a fairly large point size.) What does "margin: 0.5em 2em" mean? Left & right margins?

p.continuation should have an initial indent, because sometimes there are several paragraphs in a row. (E.g. reading an entire speech or police document into the record.) I'll need a sub-header or something class, for the dates, and a "divider" class for the three asterisks that separate segments, but those are fairly ordinary--maybe use h3 or h4 for the dates, and scrounge around for whatever's considered "normal" for small section breaks. (Don't want a full-width divider line, but could maybe deal with a 25% divider line instead of the three asterisks.)

And I'd need a couple of real header things for separating the intro, opening statements and so on, but those act like normal book chapters; it doesn't matter what I use for them as long as they start with page breaks & are obviously major section changes.

Thank you! I'd been thinking this would be a nightmare to mark up and I should just make a PDF and be done with it, but you've made me think it's actually something I could do.
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Old 03-24-2010, 04:50 PM   #4
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Yes, p.continuation needs something, either a top margin or an indent, I overlooked that.

"0.5em 2em" means top/bottom and left/right. You can give one length, two lengths or four lengths.

For headers and dates, use h*. And generally try to keep semantic markup, for instance, use <div class="separator">* * *</div> for the asterisks, and then define div.separator { margin: 1em 0; text-align: center; }. Whenever you need something special, add a class to a <div>, <p> or <span>, and worry (or ask) about the formatting later.
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