Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Skia-ing down the slope

Font, as inspiration.

Since this is a writing blog, I will venture into risky territory: fonts. I find that changing my font every few months or once a year is somehow inspiring. I have no idea if this is just wacky-Ridley or something others find as well. Lately I am working with Skia (the blog doesn't accept Skia; you'll have to look it up). I am actually eager to get back writing just to see Skia on the page. My default is Courier. I return to Courier like a horse to the barn. When all the flash and interest is worn out in some new font I've discovered I like, Courier puts the text up there as my editor will read it. (I submit manuscripts in Courier regardless of what I write in.)

For years it was this or that version of Times Roman (there are many). Garamand is a favorite for its royal, perfect look. I wander to Garamand and Bookman in search of that classic feel. Dave Barry and I write in Trebuchet MS; each of will set the other's work back to Trebuchet regardless.

It's strange how after writing millions of words, making the same words look slightly different brings out different feelings -- I told you this may sound strange. But there you have it. Fonts have life. I'm a sans-serif guy for the most part. Leave the flash to others. I like my fonts clean and strong -- something I can read instantly and I can "hear." I'm a very audio-oriented writer: I hear my text. I often read it aloud after I've finished. I commonly accidentally insert a homonym simply because I'm writing what I hear more than what I think.

here's a Skia sample.

Preview Image

Elmore Leonard has the best ear in crime fiction. He can hear dialogue better than anyone. Cormac McCarthy has to be included in that very short list of perfect ear writers. I think ear and eye are critical to a writer. We enter our readers' heads through their eyes (sometimes audio books, via ear) and the reading brain quickly translates our words and hears them: thus the term "voice." A writer has a voice because a reader has ears. And most writers have eyes, which is where fonts come in.

Go Skia-ing one of these days and tell me what you think.

Twitter: RidleyTheWriter


  1. I've used Comic Sans MS for years. It looks fun and is still easy to read. Then the NYT publishes a story about how the Font has become so popular, which pisses me off. I don't want to run with the herd. So I'm looking for a new font.

    I agree that Trebuchet MS is a gorgeous, clean font. But with you and Dave using it, I cannot. (Would I copy your Madras Bermuda shorts? I think not).

    As for Skia, neither my WordPerfect nor my Word has it. (I am the last living person with WordPerfect, which all the law firms used back in the '80s, i.e., 1880's).

    So, I'll stick with Comic Sans for now.

    Yes, size...does matter.

  2. Having spent a lifetime in advertising, joined at the hip to art directors for 10hours a day, I've developed a fine appreciation for type.

    In the old days, really good agencies had rooms full of type monkeys who would did little else but kern type, making it a beautiful addition to the overall design of the ad. Take a look at ads created by McKinney Silver in the early 80's and you'll see what I mean. That artistry and attention to the nuance of design is sadly gone today and ads look worse for it.

    Paul, I don't know why but art directors really hate Comic Sans, and even the type's designer is sorry he ever let it loose on the public.

    Art directors. They're a funny bunch.

  3. Goudy is beautiful. Also try papyrus, which is an alternative to Comic Sans IMHO. I used to be more intrigued with typefaces when they were novel. Remember the old IBM Selectrics with all the cool font balls?

  4. James O. born7/15/2009 10:19 AM

    I use one of two fonts. Times new Roman or Arial. It's boring but I know they're easy to read.

    Jim B.

  5. from Jacqueline

    I use good old Times, but I love messing about with the old fashioned looking fonts, such as Zapf Christy (It's no longer on my laptop, so I can't remember if that was the name, but it made anything I wrote seem as if it came from a place of worship.

    I bought the Leonardo font once, and loved it, just loved it. I may have to find that disk, wherever it is, and load it again.

  6. I love the idea of different fonts almost being different "voices" for each story! What a wonderful way to look at things!