Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

Male
on the second floor's nest
Seen 10 Hours Ago
Posted 1 Day Ago
1,113 posts
13.7 Years
So, as we know, the writing of stories has progressed through a number of years, of hundreds and thousands of years, on a number of mediums or physical supports from rocky walls, to wood carving, to paper, to rice grains, now to the digital medium.

Each medium presents its own advantages and disadvantages and is better suited for a given pattern of usage. Rock carvings may as well last forever, but go ahead and try and make a correction or amendment on one; paper is easier to carry and allows for better paging (literally) of content so long as, like the Lemmings, you don't get it wet; then digital format gives you the world in a thumbdrive, but it comes encumbered with patents, permits and even corporate viruses, and even the current technology for computer or phone screens is considered harmful in the long term to human vision.

All in all however, in our current iteration of what we do as fanfic writers, digital medium is the way we go. We publish in sites like PokéCommunity, we can get feedback and likes, we can even stylize our content with PC's awesome CSS (really, I never get tired of saying how cool it is).

Yet there is one thing that, I feel, our digital medium makes it actually harder to do than if we went the way of paper: explaining things aside. In most paper mediums, there are common ways to add notes to the work that go besides the flow, without breaking the content.

See, in most paper medium, it's footnotes: a sort of typographical aside, marked on the content and expanded upon in an added section at the end of the page -- page being the operative term. They are useful to do things like reminding readers of previous stuff without breaking flow, provide translations of foreign terms and sayings, etc. That said, digital written fiction doesn't do much with them, whereas even comic books have seen their return.

Why doesn't digital written fic do much with them? The main disadvantage of a footnote in a digital medium compared to in paper, is that the digital medium has no concept of "pages". When you load a story, in particular in story archival sites such as AO3 or FF.net, you are presented with a per-chapter view. In this view, in the best case scenario, a writer wanting to provide a footnote has to have their readers navigate all the way down to the end of the chapter (which could be several k-words long) to put them in. Forum systems like PokéCommunity are almost worse, as the content is split via an arbitrary paging system and while the best an author could do is to put the footnotes at the end of the current chapter, most BBCode parsers don't really provide a good means to navigate back and forth with them inside a post.

Now, what could be an alternative? Well, let's say you are old enough to remember the fiction times of the '90s where authors put Author's Notes - and I don't mean the ones at the end of the work as a sort of afterword. Yes... little teeny authors eschewed the fourth wall in their writing, and put A/Ns ("Author's Notes") right smack in the middle of the chapter - perhaps at the end of the current paragraph, or in clusters every ten paragraphs or so or at the end of a "scene". Perhaps even in the middle of dialogue!

The problem is... the fourth-wall-less writing culture of the digital '90s led to an abuse of the concept in the form of "bickering" A/Ns between the writer and their characters that even to this day makes for a good cringe compilation and likely leaves a bad aftertaste in writers evaluating if to use the concept.

Writer!Venia: "See, that would not a bad thing if it was not abused. After all, people are in for the story."
Programmer!Venia: "You know, they are cheap as heck! You don't need to do anything special, just put up a tag somewhere that says Author's Notes and you're golden! Free views!"
Writer!Venia: "...No I don't think that's how it works. It just looks stupid."
Programmer!Venia: "Does not! Besides, I challenge you to come up with something better."
Writer!Venia: "Tat's not my job, I don't even have to-"
Programmer!Venia: "Huh, are you chickening on me? That's not-a-writer talk."
Writer!Venia: "Hey! Stop using Eltenios' mannerisms!"
Programmer!Venia: "Make me ^_^"


If you grimaced at that, I don't even have to mention the resulting and obvious break in flow.

Okay so, in order to explain or refer quickie things without breaking flow, we've discarded both footnotes and Author's Notes, at least in their current form. So, what other options are available?

Writers using more modern publishing sites, such as PokéComunity and AO3, could add hovertext to their content and add the notes there, for example with [assist="explanation"]some text[/assist] in PokéCommunity to provide an explanation of some text, or with <abbrv> or <a title="..."> in AO3 and other sites supporting HTML. These tend to work in-situ , but they do require support from the parser in question (yet another thing PokéCommunity is good at, sorry if I'm shilling too much ^_^), and they have an added issue that the resulting notes are not really accessible to screen reader software, people with disabilities, or people browsing on mobile devices. So it's more a stopgap measure than anything else.

Besides, since the syntax and support is different on each publishing platform that is not raw HTML or anything close, it means a lot more work for authors who cross-publish, and for readers who are not sure if they are missing out on something that is available in other versions / publications of the work.

In the end, perhaps the simplest and less breaking way to do it would be to have dedicated section breaks every couple "screen-pages" or so, where notes and addendums can go. This requires the least formattting or support from *anything*, but it leaves to the writer the task of clearly marking those breaks in the flow of the story.

So, fellow writers: what do you choose? Do you mix and match your methods? What system would you use, and why, if you had to eg.: remind readers that a certain event happened specifically in Chapter 19? Or if you had to explain an uncommon idiom or a foreign phrase? Or if you had to quickly remind your readers that a certain named concept differs from the one similarly named in canon? Etcetera?


† : An activity, which I don't very frequently engage in, where content is produced in a medium supporting glyphs and words that carry meaning, for the consumption of readers.

¹ : Also called the "internet", an amalgamation of computer systems connected world-wide via nodes in order to share various kinds of content.

² : Easy to access or consume, with the least problems possible; designed to not be obstructing with people with disabilities or by systems with a lower featureset.

Venia Silente - Consulting WorldbuilderSocial·🐘ⓜ · · Direct·
Looking for background art.
[World] The Suocéverse «Thread» «Wiki»

Fic stuff~
SWC Selections
: Playfield : As They Were : Simpler than Magic : Beyond Today :

Other Releases
: FF&W Library : Stories : AO3 :

The Meta Journey!
Nidoran : Carnivine : Trapinch


Shooting Star

breaking the mold ~

he, they
Seen 16 Hours Ago
Posted 1 Day Ago
4,579 posts
1.5 Years
I think your main issues with footnotes can be solved (in full HTML platforms) with the clever use of links.

So you'd have
... blah blah text <a href="footnote-1" id="anchor-1">¹</a> ...

<!-- Lots of other things -->

<span id="footnote-1">1:</span> Your footnote here. <a href="anchor-1">[back]</a>
Another option I'm partial to is the floating div, although making it look well in cell phones without breaking immersion is pretty much impossible. So I'd only use it if you're making a product specifically for PC consumption. Not to mention that float is a bit ... taboo in web dev circles.

Although to be honest, I don't usually feel the need or see footnotes that often. When needed, I guess most authors I see choose to have a glossary set up in another post and link it as a threadmark or something of the like.

Bay

She/They
Dani California
Seen 9 Hours Ago
Posted 1 Day Ago
6,275 posts
16.1 Years
To be honest, seeing footnotes in prose writing is a bit weird to me unless you purposely have your piece similar to an essay and such. I guess footnotes can be a good way to remind an event from a past chapter or extra commentary, but I think some people will still think that will disrupt the flow, similar to way back when Author's Notes in the middle of the fic is disruptive. I tend to leave commentary at the end in an Author's Notes or extra link on a Tumblr/blog post if the commentary is long.
Miles Edgeworth
Foul Play [On Hiatus]

gimmepie

Age 26
Male
Australia
Seen 1 Hour Ago
Posted 11 Hours Ago
24,199 posts
10.2 Years
I also generally just don't include footnotes typically. I feel like if you need to have footnotes, you've done something wrong. Your prose should provide all the background information itself.
RPWLA&MVGGaming Journal

Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

Male
on the second floor's nest
Seen 10 Hours Ago
Posted 1 Day Ago
1,113 posts
13.7 Years
I tend to leave commentary at the end in an Author's Notes or extra link on a Tumblr/blog post if the commentary is long.
I get the sentiment; however, one could make the argument that relegating relevant paratext (not just commentary, which is a different thing) such as glossary or translations to a somewhere-else place, such as a whole different site, would be more flow-breaking than using any of the schemes exposed in tthe opening post (yes, including 90's A/Ns). Most people won't open another tab to follow a story, let alone opening two tabs and scrolling them in sync depending on what they find.

For commentary and background stuff, yeah that's what blog entries and the like are, and it helps build a sort of character for the work itself (I mean, I do maintain an entire wiki of the stuff, I would know).

I feel like if you need to have footnotes, you've done something wrong. Your prose should provide all the background information itself.
In your case and following this, what mechanisms would you use instead to eg.: remind your readers of punctual, discrete, information that would be out-of-character / out-of-flow to delve into the reminder of in prose? I have the understanding — hyphenated asides — are considered good for this, so long as you keep them away from anywhere even remotely resembling dialogue.




As an aside (heh), while so far I've been using Author's Notes at the end of the chapter, I've been mulling over splitting this sort of paratext in two for future stories: the normal author notes for more meta stuff such as proofreading commentary etc, and fictionalized quotations or asides accompanying section breaks, much like how some literary authors place chapter epigraphs to introduce some concepts or items or comment on them post-facto.

What would be your thoughts on such a "section aside" format?
Venia Silente - Consulting WorldbuilderSocial·🐘ⓜ · · Direct·
Looking for background art.
[World] The Suocéverse «Thread» «Wiki»

Fic stuff~
SWC Selections
: Playfield : As They Were : Simpler than Magic : Beyond Today :

Other Releases
: FF&W Library : Stories : AO3 :

The Meta Journey!
Nidoran : Carnivine : Trapinch


gimmepie

Age 26
Male
Australia
Seen 1 Hour Ago
Posted 11 Hours Ago
24,199 posts
10.2 Years
Snip
My point, I guess, is that you shouldn't really need to interrupt your prose with asides and addendums. The odd bit of hyphenated text is fine since it typically doesn't disrupt the flow too much, but in general your prose should communicate everything you need to tell your story by itself. That's your job as the writer.

If you want to expand the world with additional content like glossaries, maps, encyclopedias etc, that's fine. But your story should not require those things to be followed and understood.
RPWLA&MVGGaming Journal

Aquacorde

⟡ not everything is sink or swim ⟡

Age 28
she/her/he/him
Ankh-Morpork
Online now
Posted 1 Hour Ago
I would agree that you shouldn't need footnotes to be understood and your writing shouldn't need those particular types of addendums for the purpose of clarity... however literally my favorite author of all time is Terry Pratchett and he makes good use of footnotes for asides and comedy and world building that would break the flow cause it doesn't necessarily have to do with the section in question but is more tangential- along the lines of someone telling a story and offering an opinion or factoid as an aside before continuing on with their tale and I really enjoy that! I think it's sad that we don't really have a good equivalent to it and I don't really have a good way to do it in this digital medium that we work in. I do tend to use a set of parentheses or something to the same effect at times, but again that comes in with breaking the flow in a weird way, especially if the aside is somewhat long.
ROSEY PHALEN

CURRENT ROLEPLAYS
Sabbatical '84 | a sinnoh pokémon journey set in the 1980s
Hoenn: Square One | twenty years after emerald
Trainers | a journey through kanto as a final exam





signatures are king
bring them back on mobile!! also i did my own css/flair/sig/art thank you
||
roleplay is just collaborative writing
it's not hard or scary come join!!
|| groc x aquacorde x juno 4ever

gimmepie

Age 26
Male
Australia
Seen 1 Hour Ago
Posted 11 Hours Ago
24,199 posts
10.2 Years
I would agree that you shouldn't need footnotes to be understood and your writing shouldn't need those particular types of addendums for the purpose of clarity... however literally my favorite author of all time is Terry Pratchett and he makes good use of footnotes for asides and comedy and world building that would break the flow cause it doesn't necessarily have to do with the section in question but is more tangential- along the lines of someone telling a story and offering an opinion or factoid as an aside before continuing on with their tale and I really enjoy that! I think it's sad that we don't really have a good equivalent to it and I don't really have a good way to do it in this digital medium that we work in. I do tend to use a set of parentheses or something to the same effect at times, but again that comes in with breaking the flow in a weird way, especially if the aside is somewhat long.
Have you tried [title]?
RPWLA&MVGGaming Journal

Aquacorde

⟡ not everything is sink or swim ⟡

Age 28
she/her/he/him
Ankh-Morpork
Online now
Posted 1 Hour Ago
Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, title seems to be inaccessable on mobile and also difficult to indicate within the text. How are people gonna know to
hover
check
if they don't have indication of it, yknow?
ROSEY PHALEN

CURRENT ROLEPLAYS
Sabbatical '84 | a sinnoh pokémon journey set in the 1980s
Hoenn: Square One | twenty years after emerald
Trainers | a journey through kanto as a final exam





signatures are king
bring them back on mobile!! also i did my own css/flair/sig/art thank you
||
roleplay is just collaborative writing
it's not hard or scary come join!!
|| groc x aquacorde x juno 4ever

Shooting Star

breaking the mold ~

he, they
Seen 16 Hours Ago
Posted 1 Day Ago
4,579 posts
1.5 Years
Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, [title] seems to be inaccessable on mobile and also difficult to indicate within the text. How are people gonna know to hover if they don't have indication of it, yknow?
While it is inaccessible on mobile without JavaScript as far as I know, attribute title (which is probably what the [title] tag does underneath) does have underline dots, even on mobile.

So unless the stylesheet of the platform explicitly turns it off for some reason (and you can't add your own to unfutz it), it should work as an indicator.

Aquacorde

⟡ not everything is sink or swim ⟡

Age 28
she/her/he/him
Ankh-Morpork
Online now
Posted 1 Hour Ago
I just added both title and float to my above post- only float works when tapped, and neither give me underline dots. This is true on both Chrome and Firefox mobile browsers, and remains true when I switch the view to "desktop site". For some reason, title does work when applied to images, but only when you hold down over the image and only on Firefox. We may be somewhat off the topic of the thread at this point, but if there is an actual solution to this on PC it would be great to know about! I just have not found one and have accepted that if it's not obvious and easy for my readers to interact with and, yknow, read, then it's not worth putting in. And reformatting for every platform. And such.
ROSEY PHALEN

CURRENT ROLEPLAYS
Sabbatical '84 | a sinnoh pokémon journey set in the 1980s
Hoenn: Square One | twenty years after emerald
Trainers | a journey through kanto as a final exam





signatures are king
bring them back on mobile!! also i did my own css/flair/sig/art thank you
||
roleplay is just collaborative writing
it's not hard or scary come join!!
|| groc x aquacorde x juno 4ever