OK, you have your sounds and words, but you think that this alphabet we use is boring? Well, you're in luck! This page will give you a few hints and tips about creating your own writing system, commonly called a "conscript".
Types of script
To make an interesting writing system the last thing you want to do is copy the Roman script. So, before you actually start to create any glyphs (symbols), you will need to decide what kind of script you would like to make. Scripts are divided up by how many sounds are expressed per glyph.
- One glyph for an entire syllable (like Cherokee, or Japanese kana).
- Only glyphs for consonants (like Hebrew).
- One consonant per glyph with little marks for vowels (like Sanskrit).
- A separate glyph for each consonant and vowel (like English, or Hangul).
- One glyph for each unit of meaning or concept (like Chinese).
Naturally, you are not limited to just these types. You can modify or combine them to fit your language and style.
Now that you have chosen the type of script you want, you get to design the glyphs themselves. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Think about how many distinct glyphs you will need. How you determine this will depend on what type of script you have chosen. In a script with very many glyphs, you will probably want most glyphs to have a fair amount of detail, so they can be readily told apart.
- Many cultures began writing with basic pictures of objects, such as the ancient Maya or the Egyptians using hieroglyphs. These pictures were simplified and worn down over time into more abstract shapes. For example, the letter A has its origins in a glyph representing the head of a bull.
- If you prefer to use symbols you can either do them by hand or start with pictures and write them fast with a pen or brush to see how they morph.
- If too many symbols are very similar or just turned versions of other symbols, they can be very confusing to read. Although, if you are making a secret language, this might be your goal.
- Think about where your script is written. Carved or etched letters will tend to have hard lines, while letters written by brush will often be flowing. A script originating as knots tied in a string — a common ancient record-keeping technique — may have a connecting line written through the middle of every letter.
- A cursive version of your script can be made by writing each of your letters as fast as you can. If you make sure they still look different from each other, but slur them enough for speed, they should come out with a viable cursive form.
- Scalability. How small can your glyphs get before details are lost and it is too difficult to distinguish one from another? If you plan on creating a font for your writing system this will be important.
Okay, now you have your sounds and your symbols but you have one more thing to figure out: which way the words will be written.
- Top to Bottom
- Left to Right
- Right to Left
- Bottom to top
- Boustrophedon — write one way until the end of the line and then write the opposite way from there for the next line:
|First this way|
|yaw siht neht|
|and so on|
|htrof os dna|
You then need to find out which way the lines will go. For example, Japanese is sometimes written top to bottom with vertical lines going right to left. Arabic goes right to left but the lines go top to bottom horizontally. Some writing systems like Ogham are sometimes even written in a circle.
Now you can write in your own script!