Tag Archive for: typography

The Dingbat Approach

By Bethany Maines

This month at the Stiletto Gang we’ve been talking about
transitions and how moving to a new stage of life can affect writing. But I
have to admit that as I sat down to think about the topic all I found myself
pondering was the actual literal transitions of writing. One of the primary
tasks of a writer is to choose not just what to include, but what to leave out.
There are very few (if any?) novels that are told in one long continuous stream
of time. And every time the writer skips over the trip to the bathroom or the
drive from point A to point B she must choose how to indicate that transition.
Chapter 1
The Hard, Fast Break

Some writers like to make each new location or time switch a
new chapter.  It’s concrete. It’s self explanatory. And pretty hard for
the reader to get confused. But others like to the soft break.
In the typography world those little asterisks are called
dingbats. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be themed to the text.
Karen Harris Tully‘s series The Faarian Chronicles is a sci-fi young adult
adventure centered on a planet that was settled by Amazon warriors of Earth.
This gives the featured culture of the planet a Greek historical context (and
strong feminist heroines) and makes the transition dingbats of the omega symbol
fun and appropriate.
The softest break of all is the extra space.  As a
graphic designer, I’m not in favor of these. It’s far too easy, in a longer
work, for the extra space to get buried at the end of the page. Then what does
the designer do? Force the text to start lower down on the next page? That
looks awkward and can lead to confusion on the part of the reader. In other
words, if I see these in a book I immediately think the writer is a jerk who
doesn’t care about how much extra work their designer has to do.
Foolishly, when I first got into the publishing biz I found
myself incredibly surprised when my layout manuscript came back for proofing
that the designer had kept all of my transitions as I had typed them. Somehow I
genuinely thought that I would send off my MS and somewhere out in New York
someone would do something clever with my transitions.  I was kind of sad. 
I didn’t want to manage my own transitions – I wanted someone else to do all
the work for me.
Which when I think about it, is about what I think about
life transitions as well. How unfortunate that there’s no magic wand or
designer to outsource those problems to.  I guess I’m just going to put my
lifestyle setting on “dingbat” and see what I get.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Wild Waters, Tales
from the City of Destiny
and An
Unseen Current
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.