I eat quite a lot of books. Basically truckloads of them, because I get hungry okay? And I need snacks. BUT ANYWAY! When one eats a lot of books, things can start to blur. But you know which books stick out?
The ones with super unique and creative and just downright weird formatting.
I love it! I love how it startles me and makes me pay closer attention. I like how zany things can get. Huge fonts? One word chapters? Written in verse or lists? Throw out the capitals?
It makes me remember the book better because it’s different. And I also think it adds to the voice of the book. Like when the book wants to indicate something is insane and crazy and the world is melting down?! And all the words just SPLAT on the page in a blur?! It makes me not only read the panic, I SEE it too!
Except, erm, there are downsides. Sometimes it can feel forced and jagged, like a ploy for attention. And I’ve read some books with crazy formatting that have been HEADACHES to read.
Reasons Unique Formatting Sometimes SUCKS
- It doesn’t translate to audio-book very well.
- Sometimes, if it takes out punctuation, the book is super hard to read and follow.
- It can be distracting and unnecessary. Like if you are reading a normal paragraph one minute, flip, the page and — OH HELLO THE TYPOGRAPHY IS NOW SHOUTING AT YOU.
- It can limit the story. Like books written in verse or lists tend to lack world-building. And books written in letters might not have much dialogue. And books written in dragonese are just downright intolerable to read without burning things down.
For me, good outweighs the bad on this topic. SO! Let us take a brief perusal of some different types of unique formatting and I shall declare which ones I love and which drive me as batty as a fruitcake. Which, to be honest, is my average mentality. But let’s not get into that now.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF UNIQUE FORMATTING
THE FONT SIZE EXPLOSION
This specimen is from Half Wild. If you take a sneaky peek at the picture, there’s a sentence that says “the adrenaline floods…” so this is a marvellous VISUAL of adrenaline flooding, right?!
This is from Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You which is an extremely long and title that exhausts me half to death every time I type it — but regardless! THE ENTIRE BOOK IS TOLD IN LISTS. Lists, peoples. This will be the format of my memoir, I swear.
CROSS OUT ALL THE WORDS
This is a super interesting phenomenon because you can still SEE what wanted to be said, even if the character is regretting saying/thinking it and now crossing it out. In Shatter Me it also shows how unhinged Juliette is. I mean, she’s been locked away for YEARS with zlich human contact. It sounds kind of like paradise but shuuuush, someone stifle this hermit whingeing in the back row. And I think this was a really important glimpse at Juliette’s mental stability (or lack thereof) so it really added to the story.
WHAT EVEN IS THIS MESS
This is just…a catastrophe. BUT IT HAS A POINT! In The Knife of Never Letting Go, people can hear each other’s thoughts. Like, erm, all of them. (Worst place ever.) I think the page adequately sums up life in this world, right?!
WHEREIN LIFE IS A POEM
Is verse the same as poetry? I don’t even know. I’m an uneducated pineapple who used to hide all household poetry books because they just didn’t make sense and I hated them. ERGH. But poems still intrigue me quite copiously. I plucked this example from One. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of verse (I think it limits description and character development).
THE REPETITION EXPLOSION
This is from The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (which is such a fabulous book and totally terrified me, therefore I recommend it) which is about Minnow Bly (didn’t see THAT coming did ya?) who has been in a cult and had her hands cut of and is now in prison. So you think she might be a little…deranged? JUST A LITTLE. This is a picture of her prayer. It kind of just sums up the hopelessness, doesn’t it?
I’m a big fan of unique formatting. It actually makes me want a book more. Provided it’s done well (I’m still dubious about verse, but I think it’s cool) and provided the book is still readable. For instance, in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close there are chapters with NO PARAGRAPHS. I’m talking about pages and pages of block text with no breaks. That’s hard to read, okay?! That’s excruciating. Also in Talk Under Water there are no dialogue marks. Again! HARD TO READ. I’m not a fan. In fact, I become an angry tomato over it.
So is unique formatting a ploy to make a book stand out or does it mean something? Maybe it does make a book memorable, but is it annoying at the same time?