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Layout and design

Reducing barriers between story and reader

Madison Scott-Clary

Goals

  • Just some foundations to get you going, give you the language
  • (step) Tool-agnostic, not going to teach you any specifics because boy howdy is that a lot
  • (step) Get you thinking about why this is important

Why?

Reading is work

  • Great that you wrote your story, nice that you seem to have an audience, now you need to help them get your story.
  • In most cases, you want your audience to get your story as easily as possible, that means reducing the barriers between them and the story.
  • (step) Reading is work, in that it takes effort. The more effort the reading takes, the less attention the reader is paying to the story

For example...

  • For example, let's talk the oft-maligned widows and orphans
  • Widows are last lines of paragraphs at the top of the page, orphans are first lines of paragraphs alone at the bottom of a page
  • Good reason for this: when your eyes zoom to the top of the next page, it takes effort to hold current topic in mind. More so when you change pages

Rises, crescendos. Hearing and speaker damage equally likely if left unchecked.

The squeal of feedback in an audio system is an emergent behavior, and even those who have not heard  it  before  know immediately  that  something  is  wrong as soon as the hum  starts.   That  quiet  hum  in  the  background,   building

exponentially.

Similar, in an upside-down sort of way, to the echo that AwDae had caused making the table squeak beneath eir weight. Sound was picked up by the microphone, transmitted through the sound board, then out into the room. Amplified, though, through the speakers.

If the microphone started to pick up

— page break —

sound from the speakers — and sound was sound, the mic cared not where it came from — that sound would loop through the board once more.

etc

One could always just angle the speakers exclusively toward the audience,

rather than the stage. Bodies were notoriously bad reflectors of sound. Part of what made the stage so acoustically dead, that.

  • This is an example of a bad widow and a bad orphan
  • The bad widow is a single word at the top of the second page, jarring for the next line
  • (step) The bad orphan is right before the page-break, leaving the reader in suspense as the rush to turn the page (step)
  • While not technically a widow/orphan, this is what I mean about page-breaks on phrases: rather than the stage is orphaned; would be worse in actual widow/orphan context.

There were twenty boxes set on a table in front of the snakehead. Twenty receivers for twenty wireless mics. Twenty cables neatly velcroed together into a bundle, contracting from the receivers and arcing catenary toward the dull grey plug-box. They were reduced to a four-by-five grid, arching up above the snakehead before plunging into it, XLR

heads buried in XLR nests.

All of the boxes on the table were dull. Mute LEDs simple bumps on their surface. Dark. All but one: the first. The one with a piece of masking tape on its face, scrawled with a ‘1’. That box had a single red light on the front, indicating that it was powered on, and a single green light, indicating that the corresponding mic was transmitting.

— page break —

If it had been a wired mic, the search would have been over as soon as it began: the cable would’ve been plugged into the snakehead, and by following it until ey reached its end, there would be the mic.

There would be the mic, and ey would

still be stuck in a nightmare. No, in some parody of a nightmare. All dressed up for the high school pops festival and, here, see? The auditorium is completely empty.

  • Sometimes widows/orphans are unavoidable. The stars align and there's just no good way to fix it
  • Don't panic, but do try to minimize
  • Don't break on punctuation, the mind reads phrases and the widow/orphan will become its own sentence, effectively separating a subordinate clause.
  • The widow here may have been unavoidable but the reader flows smoothly over to it expecting the clause to complete
  • The orphan may have been unavoidable, but still takes up most of the line.

Riddles. Triply weird.

AwDae felt stupid. Insulted. Trapped for life and still solving riddles.

Hopelessness dimmed eir vision.

Ey shook eir head, ears laid flat.

“At least it’s something.” Ey filled out the rest of the paragraph to prove a

point.

— page break —
 

Chapter 3.8

etc.

  • (step) (step) No. Just...no.
  • Chapter and section breaks should be treated with care! Widows/orphans around section breaks are extra harsh, and breaking a section at a page break introduces challenges if you don't have a visible section divider.

Maddy's #1 rule

Give your text room to breathe.

  • My rule: give text room to breathe
  • A bit of terminology as we go through the rest.
  • Margins — space around the block of text on the page
  • Leading — space between lines of text
  • Kerning — space between characters in a line

Margins

  • (step) Space around text
  • (step) Controls where you hold the page
  • (step) Top/bottom/outer at least half inch
  • (step) Includes header/footer
  • (step) Inner at least 3/4 inch, depending on pages. There are calculators
  • Here you can see margins shown with frames
  • Top/bottom include text
  • Inner includes room for valley of binding
  • Outer gives enough room for a thumb
  • Longer book, slightly wider inner margins to accommodate thickness of binding

Leading

  • Leading is the space between lines.
  • Refers to practice of inserting thin shims of lead between lines of type to space them
  • (step) Anywhere from 1.2 to 1.5. I prefer wider because it makes for a brisker-feeling read, but industry standard is around 1.2

Leading: 1.2

There were twenty boxes set on a table in front of the snakehead. Twenty receivers for twenty wireless mics. Twenty cables neatly velcroed together into a bundle, contracting from the receivers and arcing catenary toward the dull grey plug-box. They were reduced to a four-by-five grid, arching up above the snakehead before plunging into it, XLR heads buried in XLR nests

Leading: 1.5

There were twenty boxes set on a table in front of the snakehead. Twenty receivers for twenty wireless mics. Twenty cables neatly velcroed together into a bundle, contracting from the receivers and arcing catenary toward the dull grey plug-box. They were reduced to a four-by-five grid, arching up above the snakehead before plunging into it, XLR heads buried in XLR nests

Kerning

  • Kerning is the space between letters on the page
  • If you think you need to worry about it (step) don't. You don't. I promise. Modern fonts and layout programs will do a better job than you can hope to in 99.9% of cases

Consider rhythm

  • think of it like a rhythm
  • (step) Your horizontal rhythm is how fast or steadily one should make their way through the book. Do you want a half-title page? Do you want chapter titles on their own pages? etc
  • (step) Your veritcal rhythm is how the pages should be laid out top to bottom. How much space do you give your header? What's your leading? How much room do you give chapter titles

Font choice

  • Speaking of, lets talk fonts.
  • Font-family/typeface is usually what we mean, but use 'font' for simplicity

Body text

  • Body text is what the reader spends most of their time reading
  • (step) Always a serif font face. Serifs guide the eye along text and aid in comprehension
  • (step) Not the place to get adventurous. Keep it simple and straight forward (reducing barriers, remember?)
  • (step) The usual suspects are Times New roman, Garamond, and Gentium (my favorite)
  • 11pt is a good size for most trade paperbacks (5.5x8.5)

Headers/footers

  • Headers and footers - usually aligned outer - title on verso (left), author on recto (right)
  • Can be the same as body, but some variation is okay (e.g: a similar serif, or a sans typeface with similar weight)
  • Basically, just don't be distracting. Can use a border on the headers to box in the text and keep the reader in the zone

Titles

  • (step) Titles are those for the book as a whole (half-title page, title page), parts (if the book has them), and chapters - always on recto.
  • (step) Now's your chance to be expressive.
  • (step) Fit your genre (examples) Google fonts is your friend
  • (step) If you need to worry about kerning, here is the most likely place

Google Fonts
  • fonts.google.com is your friend, but check licensing
  • Google Fonts is your friend
  • (step) Make sure to check licensing.

So...

  • Conclusion
  • (step) Let your text breathe
  • (step) It's all about reducing the barriers between your story and your reader
  • Once you learn the rules, then you get to break them

Thanks!

Time for Q&A