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Okay I just started writing fanfiction and only have two things posted so far so I'm not sure if this is a subject that's been discussed to death (If so please refer me to another post so I can read it).

I was just wondering what people's opinions on author's notes were. Where they should be placed if at all?

Personally I don't really like author's notes in stories with multiple chapters because they take me out of the story. It's a bit like reading a book and before or after each chapter the author feels he/she needs to say something. Stories should speak for themselves so you shouldn't feel the need to explain something afterwards.

Now with my latest chapter I wasn't a hundred percent sure if I got the pacing right, so I put a tiny author's note at the bottom of the chapter asking if it felt right. Now I doubt myself and am thinking of taking it out.

So, author's notes annoying? Should I take it out or leave it in. I don't know, it's wrecking my brain.

3/10/2012 #1

Hmmm... Well, speaking for myself, I generally quite like author's notes, as long as they are about the story, and not the author's personnal life. Generally, I think that if they are clearly separated from the story itself (a separation line, plus bold for at least the AN), author's notes are a good thing. If people want to read them they can; if they don't, it's easy to skip them.

3/10/2012 #2
The Lauderdale

Some people are personally annoyed by author notes. That's their beef. From my standpoint, it depends on whether the notes are helpful, relevant and to the point. I think I'm a lot better about author notes than I used to be, but I still employ a droll tone sometimes that may annoy some people. Regardless of how the notes themselves are written, the placement is key. It is better that they not be in the text of the story-proper (AN: Oh wow, this reply is really getting exciting now, huh?) and placed in such a way that readers can choose whether to read them or not. Personally, I prefer the bottom of the chapter rather than the top, or at the end of the story altogether.


Like so.

3/10/2012 . Edited 3/10/2012 #3
Unfriendly Fire

I use author's notes to give a little RL information that was mentioned in the chapter. In in of my chapters of my story that heavily mentioned RL history, I didn't think many readers knew what was "Zero stroke", which is a mental condition where someone has an irresistible urge to write endless rows of zeros. It occurred very frequently in post-WWI Germany during their hyperinflation.

3/10/2012 . Edited 3/10/2012 #4
Lord Kelvin

If you've never written an author's note, you've done no wrong. Only when you do put in an author's note your readers will hope it's done properly. FFN states you can add short notes to the beginning and end of the story, which I am fine with. For anything above that, answer the following:

Does it break the flow of the story?

Why can the message not be imbued into the story text?

Oh, and my favourite: Will I remember to remove the note when it is no longer relevant?


Nobody is forcing you to choose the best solution every time, though.

3/10/2012 #5

That depends. If it's a short comment, I don't mind it. I use it as well, to thank my Beta, or to add some RL info (usually an explanation why it took me so long again ^^'), if the story was a reply to a challenge, etc.

What I hate are long AN, explaining everything that the author thinks readers won't understand. Or if they use AN to reply to reviews (unless the review is anonymous). Also AN that are bold and not separated from the rest of the text. If all three are combined - long, bold, not separated - I usually click on back button.

3/10/2012 #6
Ms. Chaos

I sometimes skip the author's notes but if I know the author of a fic to be funny, I read theirs first because sometimes it gets me into a good mood before reading the story. lol So either way, I either skip them or sometimes read them. Doesn't matter much to me. They write what they wanna right... but if they tend to write an Author's notes longer than a fic then don't bother. :P LOL

3/10/2012 #7

Author's notes are acceptable and sometimes nice. They're only annoying if they're inserted in the middle of the story or if you can't understand the story without reading the note.

3/11/2012 #8

Personally I don't really like author's notes in stories with multiple chapters because they take me out of the story. It's a bit like reading a book and before or after each chapter the author feels he/she needs to say something. Stories should speak for themselves so you shouldn't feel the need to explain something afterwards.

I understand your feelings. I wouldn't be too crazy about it if, for instance, I bought a paperback novel and then found that each new chapter within the book either began or ended with "Author's Notes" which dropped "out of character" to lecture me on things I "needed to know" about the background material lurking behind the action of the actual story I had paid to read.

But we need to remember a key point. A new fanfic set in a well-established fictional universe can be fundamentally different from, say, a truly self-contained short story featuring characters whom the author has just now invented out of thin air (and whom he probably will never use again in any other story). The situation is more complicated in the case of the fanfic, and thus it may require special handling.

For instance, when Edgar Allan Poe wrote "The Cask of Amontillado," he didn't insert any Author's Notes at the beginning to explain who the characters were, what year this was happening in, what other stories those characters had previously appeared within . . . because he knew he didn't need to! (There weren't any previous appearances for the characters Montressor and Fortunato, and it didn't really matter just when the story was set, and so forth!)

Poe knew his readers would take it for granted that these characters ONLY "existed" within the context of this single story. Therefore, anything the readers actually NEEDED to know would be contained within the text of the story itself, just as you said. If it wasn't spelled out for us within that story, then it was deliberately left vague, and we could "fill in the blanks" in the narrator's life story and motivations as we saw fit!

But on the other hand! When you're writing a "new installment" set in a fictional universe that has hundreds (or thousands) of named Canonical Characters (or CCs), and comprises a large number of different stories (often by many different writers) set in that same continuity, and so forth, it is impractical to assume that each and every member of your target audience will be able to instantaneously recognize what portions of the vast quantity of source material you are drawing upon in any given detail of your own story.

Let me offer a simple example:

A few years ago, I started a Batgirl fanfic set in the DCU (the world of the mainstream continuity of DC's comic books about Batman and many other superheroes). In the second chapter, I needed to have the heroine wake up in a strange place and meet a friendly civilian who was much better educated than she was -- but couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag. (This Batgirl was a superb martial artist, but in most other areas her education had been sadly neglected in her childhood, through no fault of her own. It's a long story.)

At first, I was going to have her new acquaintance (and fellow prisoner) be an Original Character (OC) who was a professor of English Lit at a local university, or some such thing.

Then I reconsidered. I asked myself: "Is there anyone obscure, mentioned in my collection of Batman-related comic books, who might fit my needs?" It turned out there was. I ended up using a "canonical" nerdy character, a writer of adventure fiction and the like (but definitely not a tough "action hero" type himself), who had appeared in one Batman story published back around 1979 . . . and had NEVER been heard from again in any other comic book story! His name was Sergius.

I realized that the VAST majority of my target audience would not be familiar with this Very Obscure Character. Not everyone has a copy of that old comic book at home -- and, as far as I know, that particular story has NEVER been reprinted in any trade paperback collections available in stores.

So I inserted an Author's Note at the bottom of that chapter, in which I said something like this: "Sergius is not an OC -- but I sure can't blame anybody who assumed otherwise at first glance!" Then I talked a bit more about him. Anyone who cared about such details would now know that I was "dusting off" a canonical character who "actually" resides in Batman's Gotham City. Anyone who didn't care was free to skip the Author's Note as soon as they saw what I was talking about. It would have been ridiculous for me to assume that all my readers would know at a glance whether or not Sergius had ever appeared in any of zillions of comic book stories DC has published over a period of several decades!

3/12/2012 . Edited 3/12/2012 #9
Yuli Ban

Myself, I used to love using author's notes to describe anything I didn't want to reveal in the chapter (such as in one story, a red, white, and black color scheme used by a totalitarian regime was symbolic of the Nazis). Of course, good authors don't do that- you're supposed to either know, find that out yourself, or find out somewhere in the story. In other ones, I did it to convey personal issues or for comedy (I had an alternate personality, "Badnik", I used to talk and joke with). And, of course in my earlier days, using them to ask for reviewers to send me ideas to use in the story interactively- which is, as we all know, totally against the rules. Later on, it just came down to "Read and Review".

Nowadays, I tend to avoid author's notes altogether as I feel they actually seem to 'amateurize' a story a bit. If you wanted to read author's notes, why not just read an author's profile? I'll be more than happy to post stuff on my profile (or another place to put said notes as to not crowd up my profile) providing I get more than two readers a week that are actually interested in reading any of my stories. A major predic' I'm in now is whether I should put a table of contents in a story.

If the story I'm working on now were just another chapter-by-chapter fanfic, I wouldn't worry- the site does that for me. But considering that this story is "episodic" and one "episode" equals four chapters, I feel as if going by the site's structure would confuse some readers, even though I put an episode tag on the top of many of the chapters. A solution here would not be that I should remove the serial format of the story- that's not happening- considering the problem was that an episode guide/table of contents would, after a while, take up a large part of any document. Here's what I want to know- if I do try this, should I put a note that an episode equals four chapters and just put the episode names, or should I put the episode and their individual chapters inside? Not really an author's note, though, but I was reported for it last December. (Something I actually now feel a bit confused for- all stories have an table of contents, and, should I feel the site's one isn't adequete, should I not post my own at the end of, at the very least, the premier chapter?)

3/12/2012 . Edited 3/17/2012 #10
daphne dangerlove

I don't mind author's notes as long as they are short. I don't think that authors should use them to set up the story, because I feel like the story should do that work on its own. Long ones that thank everyone the author has known since Kindergarten make me a little crazy, but if they are clearly marked, they can be skipped. I think your question at the end of your story is completely appropriate, though, as that is a relevant place to put a question--when someone has just finished reading your chapter.

I totally agree with you about multiple chapter stories--I think they should be at the beginning and that is about it!

3/12/2012 #11

I prefer when the AN are at the beginning of the chapter, because at the end, I have always the impression of being snatched to the world I was in, while reading. I don't like answers to reviewers and explanation about the story.

But I like AN ^^

3/12/2012 #12

Two other points occur to me about my own use of Author's Notes:

1. I often start out a story with an Author's Note clarifying just when the story is taking place. Such as shortly after a certain episode of a TV show's second season. I do that so the readers will be able to get themselves chronologically oriented if they already have a good grasp of the continuity -- for instance, they will understand why certain "revelations" which they remember vividly are completely unknown to the canonical characters appearing in my story. Because at the time of my story, that subject was still an unsolved mystery within the show!

2. For one reason or another, I've used a lot of Author's Notes in my day. And I honestly can't remember the last time I got a complaint about the basic fact that such Notes exist in my stories! So it appears that there's little need to fear that such notes, if used judiciously, will actually scare off lots of potential readers!

3/12/2012 . Edited 3/12/2012 #13
Corinne Tate

I like author's notes as I'm writing and posting. For those who are reading along with my weekly postings, I think it's nice to let them know I'll see them again on Thursday, or to ask if something works or not. I do keep it to a line or two at most. I've used the notes to ask if there was too much profanity in my M rated story (there wasn't) and did I need to raise the rating of a T rated story (I did.)

But once I'm finished with a story, I go back and polish it and remove the notes, unless they're absolutely necessary. And maybe it's a good thing to occasionally be pulled out of a story. Then you can review! (cheesy grin) I sometimes think I get fewer reviews, because it's just so easy to click on the next chapter.

3/16/2012 #14
Lord Kelvin

And maybe it's a good thing to occasionally be pulled out of a story.

As a consumer, I come for the story. Break my immersion - break my experience. You can control little in my reading environment, so you should make the read streamlined, not jagged.

One thing I've noticed is that a writer can make a great impression with their stories, but mar it with a stupid author's note. At times, the A/N is the only part with typos. What is up with that?

3/17/2012 #15

At times, the A/N is the only part with typos.

That is easy enough to answer. They have not been betaed, and might even have been written directly into the document in the doc. manager. I don't send my A/Ns to beta, and I don't always write them in the document until I have uploaded and are ready to post. I use a spell-check for my browser, but it is not as good as the one I have in Word. So while I try to avoid typos in the A/Ns as well, I am not as concerned as I am with the text of the story itself.

3/17/2012 #16

I have mixed feelings about author notes. If there's some purpose to them, they can be helpful, or at least non-irritating. I prefer to read those at the top or bottom, and never in the middle. Sometimes authors use notes to shout out to friends or to blog about their daily lives, and I think those comments don't belong in an A.N.

3/17/2012 . Edited 3/17/2012 #17
Corinne Tate

But as a "consumer," you're getting the story for free. There is really no incentive to post a story for public consumption without the promise of occasional feedback. Sure I can't force people to review, and I don't intentionally add notes to slow them down in hopes of reviews. But "You're taking me out of my reading experience," isn't enough reason to skip the notes. It's a small reminder that there is a real person behind the story, and as I said before, there may be a good reason for the notes. If I were getting some kind of payment for the story, then certainly I'd wipe off all my fingerprints.

When I post as I write, I think of it as a bit of a dance between me and the reader. I lead of course, but I want to know if they're following. I do keep the notes brief, and the reader likely reads them at a glance without even thinking about it. If you don't want to see a note that I'll post on Thursday, then maybe you should have a chat with those who review with "Update soon!"

Now there are some author's notes that are really unnecessary. Thanking the betas is one I'd leave out. Acknowledge them in the beginning of the story or at the end, but chapter by chapter you should thank them personally in PM. Your readers don't care, and if we do, we can look it up at the beginning, end, or maybe on your profile. I'd also leave out the disclaimer - especially if you post it every chapter.

Begging for reviews of any kind should be left for the beginning, end, or profile as well. I'm guilty of doing this, and I'm going back to remove those pathetic notes. I also think contests of any kind should be kept out of the story. I hate seeing a reviewer of the week hanging out at the bottom of the page. Happy birthday wishes to readers also should be left out. Anything directed at one or a small group of readers should be left out - it makes the rest of us feel like we don't matter.

3/17/2012 #18
Lord Kelvin

But as a "consumer," you're getting the story for free.

Depends on your definition of money, actually (but it is a curious concept; expect a new thread). Reviews seem to be a valid currency for many younger members of the site. Even if you're not one of them, you experience a sense of achievement when readership is growing and reviews become more plentiful. As such, it's up to you to decide where is the optimal level. Is it the fandom average? Above average? Up for the maximum?

You reap what you sow. An amazing story speaks for itself. Are your notes as amazing as the story? Or are they diluting the value?

Some food for thought, basically. There might be a fandom, say, Minesweeper, where notes are an absolute must because you have three reviewers, all of which will leave the moment you stop thanking them inside the story.

3/17/2012 #19
Corinne Tate

I don't look at a review as currency for the privilege to read my story. I write because I love to write. But I post here and share my work because I genuinely want to know what others think of it. That's why I want reviews, not because I want to reach a certain number or because I like having "fans," or I'm looking for a sense of achievement. I want to know if I'm a good writer and storyteller. I wan to know what I can improve on. I want to know what resonates with readers. So for me the only incentive to post, is reviews.

I think my stories are a bit below my fandom average for traffic and reviews. I have to disagree with you that an amazing story speaks for itself. It should, but that's not what I've seen in my fandom. Many amazing stories are passed over in favor of the ones that pander to the teen fans. It is often about the pairing rather than the writing. The popular writers follow a formula, where they put character A in a situation with character B and add angst. I've done my best to come up with original ideas and write them well. In Twilight fandom, that's a recipe for failure.

As far as the AN goes, I don't like to write and post in a vacuum. I've written an AN or two that was as amazing as my story, but most are just there to inform readers of what I'd like them to know.

I couldn't write for such a small fandom as you mentioned. Well, take that back, I could write, but I wouldn't post. It would feel like tossing my work into a black hole. It would also mean there's no learning experience, except for what a handful of readers like.

3/17/2012 #20
The Lauderdale

I don't look at a review as currency for the privilege to read my story. I write because I love to write. But I post here and share my work because I genuinely want to know what others think of it. That's why I want reviews, not because I want to reach a certain number or because I like having "fans," or I'm looking for a sense of achievement. I want to know if I'm a good writer and storyteller. I wan to know what I can improve on. I want to know what resonates with readers. So for me the only incentive to post, is reviews. ... I couldn't write for such a small fandom as you mentioned. Well, take that back, I could write, but I wouldn't post. It would feel like tossing my work into a black hole. It would also mean there's no learning experience, except for what a handful of readers like.

Different priorities for different writers. 8) LOTR is a fair-sized fandom, but I've written for smaller in my time. I figure, if I write it, and it's fanfiction, and I think there's someone else who might be entertained by it, I'll post it. I don't post to find out whether I'm a good writer or storyteller: generally speaking, if I post a story it's because I figure it's decently sound (though I'm certainly up for self-improvement.) I do want to see what other people think about it, but I used to post fanfiction on my own site, along with other people's fanfiction, back before FFN existed, and that certainly didn't have a built-in review system. I was an enthusiastic fan sharing with other enthusiastic fans, whether or not I heard from them, and I liked seeing my stuff in print.

Yeah - put me down for that sense of achievement: I like seeing my stuff in print! Having fans is also nice, although I think I will trade "fan" out for "interested reader" instead. Which is to say, it's nice to have people who are interested in my writing and characters, and they are likely fans of something, but I know that many/most of them are not fans of me per se, but of the source matter from which I'm writing.

3/17/2012 #21
I don't like notes that are not story related and I when I put them up I usually put them AFTER the story content. Like for "A Change of Destiny" with it set in Japan I put in the notes that the School year runs from April to March rather than the August to June of the States so readers wouldn't get lost. I only add notes that will help with understanding the story. I also have recently used that space to thank my reviewers for my last chapter since many times I can't thank them if they don't have an account. I've noticed that my reviews have gone up since then. Perhaps folks just like seeing their name in print. :D
3/19/2012 #22

Personally, I skip over author notes, unless they're short. I can read short author notes and still not get sucked out of the story; it's the long one's that make me -_-... bored *scrolling down* and... skipping!!!

I write author notes too, usually for an explanation of something, but I always keep them short and simple, right at the beginning, in bold, and labeled Author's Note, in case there are those that want to skip it. Or I'd inform people that I typed another piece of work, go check it out, short and simple enough.

Also, I don't like to hear people's life story through their author's notes, if you like writing about yourself so much, put it on your profile page. That is what your profile page is there for! That's just my opinion though ;)

3/19/2012 #23
Lord Kelvin

What I don't get is that you bold things that are super important, yet author's notes get that treatment. If it were comfortable to read, I'd bold the story text instead, but that would be silly in the current situation.

Isn't there a way to make notes more discrete if they are impossible to omit from the writer's perspective? Italics, maybe?

3/19/2012 #24

What I do is to put any author's notes up top, then bold the story title, then start the story. So:

Many thanks to my beta Fred the Budgie for all his help. This story is set between series 5 and 6 and, in my AU story arc, follows on from My Slightly Less Cool Story Title.

My Ultra Cool Story Title

It was a dark and stormy night...

3/19/2012 #25
Saint Vain

I can understand making author's notes for your chapters. This is the internet, so it's more like posting in a forum than getting it published on paper. Which of course, for most if not all fanfiction isn't going to happen. Being the internet, I think people are entitled to little comments within their writing.

I appreciate it when the AN's have to do with the story instead of with the author's life, though a sentence or two about how they're feeling or why they are late doesn't hurt anyone. What I can't stand is the AN's that are dedicated to replying to reviews, and/or acting out roleplays with whatever hot guy in the fic the writer fawns over. (An author fawning over her/his character is always a scary situation). These can sometimes take up more space than the story itself, and that's not cool, it's a distraction.

As Lord Kelvin said, I wish there was a less....bold alternative. I don't like bold except for titles (headers) and the artistic treatment of profiles. It makes my eyes water to read an entire AN in bold, besides being distracting. I don't think AN's are important enough to warrant bold. If I were to make one, it would be as such:

Author's Note: Blah dum this is not in bold.

Then I can add a line across the page, center the title and the AN will be short enough it doesn't really distract.

3/19/2012 #26

Can't abide them - especially when it's a list of replies to reviews, but even when it's a list of explanation, I don't like 'em. If your story cannot stand on its own merits, then re-write it. Don't expect the reader to pick up information from elsewhere, that's the job of the story. ANs only demonstrate a lack of confidence in your own writing.

3/19/2012 #27
The Lauderdale

Well that rules out some of my favorite books, as well as some very good fanfics. [amused]

3/19/2012 #28

I just posted my first fan fic on the site and I really was unsure about the Authors notes thing as well. I felt there was some things that had to be explained at the beginning of the story but i don't intend on putting any more. even so, I felt nervous about even the one. This made me feel better about it. Thank you very much.

3/23/2012 #29

What I do is italicize the author's notes. It still sets them apart from the story, but it's more subtle.

3/23/2012 #30
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