Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ultimate Quest

Song Playing: Holy Diver by Dio

***Warning: Extreme dorkyness ahead***

Yesterday I embarked on a noble quest. This is a quest I think we writers all take at least once in our career. This quest gripped me throughout most of the day. It started innocently enough. I was working on my laptop, which has an older version of MS Word than my desktop. Some of my favorite fonts are not on it, as a result. So I thought I would download them.

Any of you who have been on this quest before…well, you know what happened next…

I typed “free font downloads” and hours later, I emerged with fourteen new fonts. I did not find a free download of Georgia, or Book Antiqua, or Gill Sans, or Century, like I was looking for (I assume now that you can’t download them for free, after some thought about copyrights and such). Instead, I found other fonts to fill the void that Georgia and Century had left. Cool fonts. One of my new ideas is about an exorcist’s apprentice, and I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if I have a gothic-looking font for this project?”

I have several gothic-looking fonts now, but the problem is most of them are not going to be easy to write a novel with. I could use some as headers, but they aren’t good for writing long documents, like books. Some of them are really busy, some are super teeny-tiny (seriously, font-designers, what’s up with squishing words together? Don’t you know how hard that is to read? Especially after hours of staring at the computer screen?), some of them look like they are in all caps, and some of them are so dark they look like someone made them with the “bold” button on. It’s hard to see how a font is going to work out with just a sample sentence, which is why I wound up with so many fonts and so few actual contenders for the Gothic Font of Choice.

I have three qualities that I look for in fonts that I write a book in:

*Medium sized. I can’t stand those teeny fonts or the really big ones that fit roughly two words per page.

*Clean. They need to be clean to look at. If the font is too busy or distracting, I see the words on the screen in front of me, and have a harder time getting into the “zone” to write. Fonts guilty of being too busy for my taste include: Bradley Hand, Castellar, Copperplate Gothic, and Curlz MT. Calisto MT is borderline for me. Sometimes I think it’s just over the line of being too busy and cutesy, and sometimes I think it can come and play with it’s big brother Georgia.

*Pretty to look at. This is subjective, of course, but I want it to have some decoration without it being too distracting. Too many curly-cues and flair to the letters and I look at the words (I am looking at you, Bradley Hand. I think most writers had that thought, “Hey, I am a writer, but I am using a computer. Why not use Bradley Hand? It’s like handwriting on the computer!”…two minutes later, you get annoyed with how the words look and you stumble across trusty old Verdana, or perhaps Book Antiqua and never look back). I fell in love with Book Antiqua first, and now I am stuck in a Georgia phase. I also like to use Century, Palatino Linotype and Bookman Old Style.

I tried Century Gothic to fill my gothic font needs, but it’s a little plain. Century Gothic looks more like a font I would edit in, not write with. Franklin Gothic Book is nice, but again with the too small and squished together problem. I thought about Constantia, though this one might be too dark, I haven’t decided yet. Bookman Old Style is nice, and a contender for the prize.

Despite the fonts I downloaded, I am not sure if I have found the perfect font yet. Some of the pretty fonts I downloaded (I am not going to link back to where I downloaded them. I am not a 100% sure you won’t get a virus (although I did check the website before I downloaded anything), and then come and blame me. So just Google them if you want to look at them):

*Daybreaker: This looks like it’s all in bold, but it’s relatively clean to read. It has an almost faded look to it in 12pt, but I would have to make the size larger if I wanted to write a book with it. It looks like a vampire wrote it, that’s the best way I can describe it.

*SF Gothican: This one is on the small side as well, but very clean to read, and about as dark as Georgia is, which is my preference. It’s downfall is it’s a little busy. It almost looks like script in 12 pt. I am still considering this one.

*Gothikka: This font is similar to Gothican, but it’s a little cleaner to read. It’s just as small as Gothican though, so I would have to write with it in larger size than 12pt, which is really annoying. It’s on the borderline of whether I think it too busy or not.

*Lombardic: this font looks like medieval lettering. It’s medium intensity, but the letters are too busy to write a book with. It’s a contender for my title page though.

*Letter Gothic: I might use this one, or at least to edit with it. It’s very clean, but the spacing is sparse. It’s like a prettier version of Courier, for those of you who thought “Man, I wish Courier was just a bit prettier, but still looked like a typewriter made it.”

Because face it, Courier is a little plain.

*Elphinstone: I love this font. It had a cool name, it’s clean, decorative without being too busy. My main complaint is the tails to the letters don’t drop down all the way, so it can be a little confusing, and once again, it’s small to read in 12 pt. It’s also reads more like script and less like typing, so that could be good or bad. Overall, a great font.

The next three fonts aren’t gothic-looking, but I downloaded them because they were pretty.

*GF Halda Normal: this font is on the darker side, and looks like handwriting, but with very sparse spacing and lettering. If Lucida Handwriting and Courier had a love child, Halda Normal would be it. I am not sure if I would use this to write a book though, because it’s looks so much like handwriting, I am not sure if I would be distracted or not. We shall see.

*Hansa: this font is clean and resembles handwriting as well. If Lucida Handwriting cheated on Courier to have a love child with Papyrus, this is the font they would have. This is like a nicer, more respectable version of Papyrus.

*Swansea: this is a really nice font. It’s pretty and clean, similar to Century, but a little darker. I will definitely use this one in the future.

So my quest for the perfect font to write my new book in is still ongoing, which is fine since I have editing to do anyways. At the moment I am considering: Century Gothic, Letter Gothic, Gothikka, Bookman Old Style, and Franklin Gothic Book.

Now that I have spent an entire post taking about fonts, I would like to know if I am the only one who is this particular about fonts? Do you deliberate between fonts before starting a new project, or do you just use the same one until you get sick of it? Are there some favorite fonts I haven’t mentioned? Any suggestions for me?


  1. I love fonts! They are especially good for designing book covers. I like the "Vivaldi" font. It's very frilly. You should try that one.

  2. I love fonts. I used to find various fonts that expressed the tone of what I was writing. I eventually came to realize that I wasted more time looking for the appropriate font than any time gained by its inspiration.

    I write in Courier New, 12pt, double spaced. It's the industry standard. The last thing I want to do is forget to change the font and send it off to an agent in Blackadder.

  3. Ah, I love fonts!
    For my fey WIP, I use "Erin Go Bragh" for the chapter titles. Very fun.

    However, I write in Times New Roman. Yup, boring like that. I hate sans serif fonts, and TNR is just attractive. To me, at least.

  4. @Aubrie: Vivaldi IS pretty, but I think it’s a little too like handwriting for my taste. I know, I am weird. But you are so right, it’s a nice, clean, flowing font.

    @Joe: Yes, I am well aware that it’s pretty much a waste of time. But I was taking a break in between editing, and thought I would just download a free font or two quickly. Then the grip of hysteria held me until I found the perfect font.

    I HATE Courier. Hate it. I can’t stand to look at it. I almost changed your rough draft so many times...but I muscled through it, somehow. I have a checklist of things to...check before I send material off to agents/publishers, so I am not worried about forgetting to change the font. But you’re right, it’s the industry standard. Although, I have seen some agents change to wanting their queries in Times New Roman.

    @Summer: I love “Erin Go Bragh”. It’s a gorgeous font. I didn’t think about using the pretty fonts for the chapter titles. I like Times New Roman, it’s an oldie, but a goodie. I used it all through high school for research papers and essays because it was that or Ariel. *shudders* I hate Ariel.

    I knew it wasn’t just me that was crazy about fonts. I figure if I am going to stare at the computer screen for hours, it might as well be pretty.