Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
Important Font Considerations for Writers

by Ellen Buikema

When I worked with my first cover designer, we spent a lot of time discussing the best font/typeface for my book. He wanted to ensure that my font "would be good for my brand."

I was a newbie Indie and had no idea what he meant by brand.

Note: I’m using the terms typeface and font interchangeably. Although font is the weight, size, and width of the typeface, the term font is often used for typeface.

My first book was my only work of nonfiction, so by the time I started a chapter book series I had a better sense of my identity as a writer.

What does well for one genre will not necessarily work for others.

Choosing a font is one of those things we don’t think about right away as we’re pondering plots, story arcs, characters, and settings. After the story is written and edited, then the flood of questions begin.

  • Is the font type important?
  • Should each genre be written using specific fonts?
  • Is there a psychological influence the font may have on your readers that increases the chance of them liking your book?
  • Does the font include an italic version?
  • Is there a fee for the font?

Which Typeface to Use?

There are two main typefaces: serif and sans serif. Serif has short lines stemming from the upper and lower ends of the letters and sans serif does not.

Use one typeface for your body text, and another for your titles – both on the front cover and your chapter titles (if you decide to use them).

It should be noted that having more than two fonts in the book’s interior can distract your reader from the story.

When I’m reading, I prefer a serif typeface. Those little lines seem to help with the flow of the text.

Considerations for the Book's Interior

#1 Rule: Choose an interior font so it’s as easy to read as possible.

Serif

Each font has its own personality. Baskerville, Garamond, and Palatino work well for literary fiction and thrillers. The more rounded Merriweather and Lora fonts lend themselves to genres like romance and fantasy. For non-fiction and academic books, consider Sabon.

Resource: Go to Google Fonts and run a search to see how each font looks.

These font-genre combinations are possibilities. I spoke to several authors in various genres who prefer Times New Roman, another typeface that is easy on the eye.

Serifs help tie individual letters into groups (words), making them easier for the brain to scan. The important thing is that they are easy to read and look good when used for long-form texts.

While stylized fonts can capture the mood of your story, they’re distracting and hard to read when used as lengthy texts. As much as I love some of the “fanciful” fonts, full of curls and swirls, reading lines upon lines could be challenging.

Specialized Fonts for Dyslexia

When asked their thoughts about typefaces, people with dyslexia had mixed ideas for typefaces but agreed they should be sans serif.

  • Open-Dyslexic is a free, open-source font. It can be used on websites and in Microsoft Office.
  • Christian Boer, who has dyslexia, used his background in Graphic Design to design Dyslexi a typeface that prevents the mirroring, turning, swapping, and overcrowding that make reading and writing a challenge. Dyslexi is free for personal use.
  • Comic Sans, designed for comic strips, is the most popular Microsoft font for children. Adults either love it or hate it. Although it’s not considered professional in the publishing or academic worlds, comic sans typefaces meet all dyslexic preferences with the exception of mirrored b and d.

Note: Sans serif is preferable for young children, or anyone just learning to read.

The best typefaces have similar things in common.

  • Even kerning

The right amount of spacing between letters makes a vast difference in readability. Look for a typeface with even kerning otherwise that tedious task will be yours.

  • Consistency

All the letters, numbers and other characters used maintain the same look.

  • Balance

A blend of thick and thin, heavy and light, is essential in a good font.

  • Legibility

Choose a crisp, legible font. An unreadable font is like studying a work of art so busy you can’t figure out what the piece represents.

Resource: Here are 12 easy to read fonts.

Considerations for Book Covers

The cover font should express your book’s character.

The typeface should entice the reader to pick up the book. Since many readers use online sources to find reading material the cover should be easy to read when it's thumbnail-sized. Decisions for purchase are at least in part due to the look of the cover.

Melinda VanLone has some great tips for best use of book covers to get your work to your readers.

Children’s Fiction

Children's books are often enjoyable stories that spark the imagination. The book cover should be visually welcoming. Designers tend to look for something that's either whimsical or relatable.

The best font for children's book covers will depend on the subject with the typeface complementing the visual.

The typeface I used for the Charlie Chameleon books is djb I Love A Ginger. It’s crisp, fun, easy to read, and matches the personality of the book.

Fonts for the Visually Impaired

There are many typefaces, each with several fonts. Often the more creative typeface choices are hard to read or look odd when in large print. The following are free and are helpful for people who have difficulty reading print.

·       APHont

Created by the American Printing House for the Blind, it's easy to read in any font size or weight, with longer tails on the letters Q, G, J, and Y. To download this font for free, users need to certify that it will be used by someone with vision impairment.

·       Arial

Arial is a great typeface for vision impairment because every letter is simple and looks different from the other letters, and looks great in bold.

·       Helvetica

Similar to Arial in appearance, Helvetica does well with light text on a dark background. The heavier font makes it easier for the eyes to focus on the text.

·       Lavanderia

Lavanderia may be the best serif font for someone with low vision, because of its heavy weight and easy to distinguish letters, which is beneficial for someone learning to write with dysgraphia.

Fonts used for dyslexia, like Comic Sans and Dyslexi also work well for people with low vision.

In all my years teaching Special Education I only had one student who was visually impaired.

When it was time for the Third Grade State Standardized Testing, she tested with me in the Resource room using the largest testing booklet I’d ever seen. In order to use it, she had to stand over the desk and fill in the ovals to answer the questions. When she was finished, I was asked to transfer her answers to a standard-sized answer sheet so the computer could read it.

The typeface was the same as everyone else’s, just a very large font.

Fortunately, other tools, like portable scanners are available now.

Other Great Resources

Where do you go to look at fonts and decide what you want? Check out MyFonts the site that will identify any font from an image.

Need to find compatible fonts? See Google Fonts for lots of possibilities.

Unsure if your choice of typeface is too creative? Look here for rules to follow.

What is your preference, serif or sans serif? Do you have a favorite typeface? When you look at a book cover, does the typeface matter to you?

* * * * * *

About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and Crystal Memories, YA paranormal fantasy.

Find her at https://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.

Top Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Read More
How Many Scenes Does It Take to Tell Your Story?

by Sarah (Sally) Hamer

Of course, the easy answer is: As many as it takes. (Really helpful, right?)

The problem answer is: It depends on many things.

What Is a Scene?

First, let’s define a scene. In most stories, it’s a small section of the main book, which can be anything from super short (under a page) to super long (the entire book – although I don’t recommend it!).

A scene unit usually consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end, and is only part and parcel of a whole book. So, a scene is basically a stand-alone piece that is a part of a much larger total. 

Example: The Hunger Games

Think about the opening of The Hunger Games when Katniss volunteers to take her sister Prim’s place during the reaping ceremony.

The reaping ceremony starts with all of the eligible girls lined up on one side of the plaza, the boys lined up on the other, and the interested spectators gathered around. Effie Trinket steps forward, gives her speech, and reaches into the jar of names, pulling Prim’s name out.

Katniss takes a breath of horror and immediately steps forward, demanding to be the tribute instead of her little sister. The scene concludes with Katniss and Peeta being marched off to be sacrificed to the Capital’s greater good.

Elements of This Scene

The beginning is, of course, where the tension builds as the setup of the drawing takes place. We (the audience) know that something bad is going to happen and know that Katniss is her sister and mother’s only protector.

The middle begins when Prim’s name is called and the shock and horror of what will have to be done dawns on Katniss. It’s not mentioned in the scene itself, since this is at the action level where thinking is not really allowed, but the understanding that a) District Twelve has only had one winner of the Hunger Games in the seven-four years, so the tribute will almost certainly die and, b) Katniss can’t feed her family if she dies in the Games HAS to be going through her head. The audience has seen enough setup in the beginning of the story to know that something terrible is going on.

The end is where she volunteers and is taken away, essentially, to die.

Scene Goal

This scene has a clear goal – to show us that Katniss has courage and is willing to die for her sister. It’s also full of tension, which sets the tone for the whole book. All together, it’s an excellent scene. I don’t know how long it is in the book without digging my copy out, but it’s no more than ten pages and probably less than that. But it fulfills the requirements.

But it’s only a tiny piece of the whole and, although it’s totally necessary to the story, it only tells a little bit of it.

How many scenes are in The Hunger Games? According to http://storyfix.com/the-hunger-games-beat-sheet, there are eighty-five, at least in the book itself. Is that too many? Too few? Or, since they tell the story perfectly, is it just enough?

So, how many scenes need to go into YOUR book?

First, consider the genre.

Different genres, by definition, need different scenes. In a four-hundred-page paranormal adventure, the scenes are normally a little longer than they might be in a 250-page urban adventure. Romance novels vary from 50,000 to 100,000 words (usually 200 to 400 pages), depending on the line. Children’s books are usually shorter, with YA being up for grabs. Which doesn’t help much with number of scenes, does it?

Then, consider the pacing.

One of the things that does seem to matter in scene length and, therefore, in number of scenes, is in the pacing. A fast-paced book with lots of action will probably require shorter scenes, which can create deeper tension. A book with a lot of introspection allows for longer scenes.

For instance, an action-adventure where there is little thinking going on by the protagonist may have four or five short scenes full of action in a row, with a longer scene where the action slows down enough for the characters to discuss what’s going on.

We see that in The Hunger Games when Katniss and Rue are in adjoining trees watching the Careers beneath them. There isn’t a lot of action but Katniss is getting information from the bad guys and the two girls are communicating with Rue suggesting that the Katniss drop the tracker-jackers on their heads. Then, the action starts all over again, and the scenes are shorter for several pages before everything slows down again.

A story with lots of introspection and little action, such as The Shack, uses longer scenes to allow the characters to have long conversations with lots of deep insights. There is action, of course, but nothing like The Hunger Games and so slower, longer, and deeper scenes are necessary to get the story told.

Bottom line: The story needs as many scenes as it needs.

Final Thoughts

My advice is always to quit worrying and write the darned book. From start to finish. Eventually, we have to stop planning and plotting and worrying about it being perfect. We just have to write it.

Then, in the editing that follows -- and I promise that editing will follow! -- you fix the problems and decide just how many scenes you need. By that time, you'll have a really good idea of what the book is about and you'll know what needs to go in it and how the pacing needs to work.

Really, the number of scenes is so arbitrary, it's hard to say until then. But that’s what keeps it interesting!

What do you think is the correct number of scenes? Do you plot out your scenes before you write the book, or do you “write by the seat of your pants” and let it flow? Please tell us about your process down in the comments!

About Sally

Sarah (Sally) Hamer, B.S., MLA, is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick.' She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres - mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction – she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.

A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a freelance editor and book coach at Touch Not the Cat Books, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors.

You can find her at hamerse(at)bellsouth(dot)net or www.sallyhamer.blogspot.com

Read More
Book Cover 101: Fantastic Fantasy and Scintillating Sci Fi

by Melinda VanLone

This is part three of my four-part series focusing on current book cover trends for 2022.  Here are the other two, in case you missed them.

Sci Fi and Fantasy often get lumped together in bookstores because they both deal with the fantastical. That said, there are vast differences between the two genres when it comes to covers and the stories within, and even more difference when you dig into the subgenres like New Adult or High Fantasy.

The subtle nuances between sub-genres is a topic for a whole other blog post so we’ll set that to the side for the moment because there’s something far more interesting going on right now.

Old Sci Fi Covers

Back in the “old” days Science Fiction covers used hand-drawn artwork, or simple typography to get across alien landscapes. Fantasy, particularly Epic Fantasy, often did the same thing, but there was an air of magic, rather than an alien world or space.

These covers have changed a lot over the years of course as technology emerged. Now when you see a cover that looks like Asimov’s you know you’re dealing with a retro story. Digitally generated art has infiltrated Sci Fi and Fantasy even faster than other genres, which makes sense. After all, how else can you get robots, aliens, strange new worlds, and new civilizations onto your cover? If they don’t exist in real life it’s very hard to photograph them, and hiring an artist to draw them gets pricey, fast.

New Sci Fi Covers

Take a look at these current covers. Notice the trend toward rich, deep colors. Artistic flourishes on text. A hint of the unusual in either the human (alien) or the landscape. All of the artwork is brighter, darker, more bold, and more vibrant than any other genre.

Digital artists are so good it’s very hard to tell the difference between something generated entirely in Photoshop and true photography. It’s been that way for quite some time now. The lack of good stock photography that incorporates diverse models is simply not as big of a deal for this genre, because they are often creating their model in the software.

The problem for most publishers/authors is that learning how to do that takes a lot of time, knowledge, and skill. Frankly, writers should be writing, not trying to learn a whole other skill set.

But there’s something happening now that I think will change the book cover landscape in a radical way, particularly for Sci Fi and Fantasy.

AI (artificial intelligence) generated art.

There are several companies racing to the finish line with some truly groundbreaking software that will take words you feed them and turn them into art.  The potential is huge. It will make the creation of fantastical art a lot more accessible to those who might not have artistic or technical skills, which in turn will cause another trend shift in book covers as the impossible become possible.

Some Examples

Here’s a piece of art that I generated over at Dream. (https://app.wombo.art)

It already looks pretty cool, and it serves as a great jumping off point for a book cover like this:

I generated that background in about fifteen minutes at the Dream website. This isn’t perfect by any means, and the background is fairly low-res if you’re trying to create a print cover, but I’m sure in the fullness of time we’ll be able to purchase the hi-resolution version of our creations. For now it’s still in beta testing, and there are several other companies in beta as well. In other words, they aren’t done yet.

I could have done this all by hand with Photoshop, but it would have taken hours. Days, maybe. The better I got at feeding the right words to the AI, the more the art improved.

Final Thoughts

Authors in particular might have the advantage here, since we already know how to choose words to create a mental picture, right? One thing is for sure…the artwork generated via AI will be completely unique. Every rendering, even with the same keywords, is different. That’s a pretty cool thing in the land of limited stock photography options.

It makes sense that the speculative genres would use artwork generated by something that’s truly out of this world first. After that, who knows? There’s a lot of potential here, and the software is just getting started. I can’t wait to see if AI-generated art infiltrates and influences the future’s book cover trends.

What do you think? Would you use AI-generated art for your covers? Did you like the modern sci fi covers better or the classics? Let's talk about it down in the comments!

Note: Next time, we’ll dive into Women's Fiction and literary covers. Until then, thanks for reading!­­­

* * * * * *

About Melinda

Melinda VanLone is a coffee addict, a cat lover, and avid writer of stories about rascally heroes and sassy heroines who live happily ever after in spite of themselves. She shares her house with her fur babies and the love of her life, Mr. Melinda, who spends most of his time at home huddled under blankets because the thermostat remains under her iron control. 

When she's not playing with her imaginary friends you can find her designing covers that sell, taking brisk walks around the neighborhood and failing to resist the pistachio muffins at the nearest local coffee shop. Head on over to melindavan.com to check out her latest writerly doings, or hop over to bookcovercorner.com to peak at her cover designs.

All photo credits - Melinda VanLone

Read More
1 2 3 619

Subscribe to WITS

Recent Posts

Search

WITS Team

Categories

Archives

Copyright © 2022 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved