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Informing of real history in time travel-do over

Lugh

As I write a time travel/do-over story that focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis, with my rule of doing my best to disclose much on the future, I'm tempted to make some comments on what really happened.

For example, I am drawing from a real example, in which the Air Force and Navy thought it would be fairly easy to take down a Soviet surface-to-air missile site. Remember, this is 1962, but the assumption was never tested in combat. We went into Vietnam with the same wrong assumption, and, arguably, it only materialized in 1972.

Would it break the story too much to have a {notice} or some other "editorial note" to speak of lessons that should have been learned?

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Lugh


Would it break the story too much


I would not include any sort of footnote or comment inside the story. At most I would add an appendix.

Does your character have knowledge of what will happen in the future?

Could they ponder about similarities between their current time environment and what will happen in the future?

Could they struggle to warn others in their current time about the lessons of future history, without revealing they have come from a different time?

Replies:   tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Lugh

Like Ross, I wouldn't say anything inside the story itself. However, an author's note at the end of the story would be a good place to say something if you wanted to. Another would be an entry in your SoL blog.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Another alternative is to include a brief preface. In books, the Preface is where you discuss issues not in the book, such as why you felt compelled to write it, etc. If you posted a brief preface at the same time you posted your first chapter, most people would skip it, but those interested would discover the additional issues in the story.

But Ross has the best idea. You need to figure out how to include the issues in the story itself. With a time traveler it's fairly easy, since he has knowledge of both past and future, but has the conflict over how to tell others something he has no way of knowing. That's called 'drama'.

As a general rule of thumb, around 20% of readers will read a prologue (more for science fiction or historical dramas), about 10% for a preface and only 5% (or less) will read footnotes.

By the way, those numbers are purely made up, but it seems a reasonable guess on the subject given what I've observed over time.

Replies:   docholladay
samuelmichaels

@Lugh

I would question the rationale for including this information in the story unless the protagonist intends to do something with this insight, or it plays some other role in the plot.

docholladay
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


As a general rule of thumb, around 20% of readers will read a prologue (more for science fiction or historical dramas), about 10% for a preface and only 5% (or less) will read footnotes.


Including footnotes would have to be almost impossible in the online or ebook formats. In older printed formats those footnotes were placed at the bottom of the current page or worst case the end of the chapter. Louis L'Amour (spelling) used them quite effectively as historical and geographical notes. I did read those for the new knowledge. Sometimes the note was to look up certain information at the library.

edited to add: schools are not the only way to learn. Just they are the only way to have a recognized record of it.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@docholladay

On ASSTR author Very Well Aged uses footnotes that translate foreign words in his stories set in the Philippines. Most of the notes are explained at the end of the chapter, but some, particularly recipes for Philippine dishes, refer to pages on-line through the internet. Most of those recipes include pictures.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@richardshagrin

The reason I said what I did, was due to the different formats between sites and ebooks. Those differences make it hard for a writer to include footnotes. It can be done but the many variables create problems. And like CW said many will not even read them, let alone try and understand them. Others like myself will use them as a learning tool.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Lugh
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

like CW said many will not even read them, let alone try and understand them. Others like myself will use them as a learning tool.

I'm not saying it won't be beneficial, but you need to train your users what to expect. I use a LOT of prologues and epilogues. Epilogues are easier, as the story leads you to the end and you have to read the epilogue to understand what happens. But I get about 30 to 40% of my readers using my prologues, but that's still 60% who don't.

If you can include the information in the story itself, especially if it's natural (like in a discussion between characters), it'll be more widely read. On the other hand, Prefaces are so unusual that many curious readers will check them out just to see what it includes (those already more interested in the story).

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

In some ways the manner I had to learn things had both advantages and disadvantages. One I have to constantly look for how to learn different things. Disadvantage some skills will not earn me a dime without that little piece of paper saying I have the college degree. Applied skills would only get me in legal trouble if I was to ever be paid for their usage. Had Psychiatrist tell me at the age of 18 that I had the skills of a 4 year degree in applied clinical psychology (illegal as hell to be paid for them) and no way to get that dang piece of paper.

edited to add: Probably also illegal to use them.

Lugh

@docholladay

Thanks -- I hadn't thought of the ebook problem.

At this point, I'm inclined to keep things to a historical appendix chapter, much as I am tempted to snark inline.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Lugh

Just remember to be consistent with what ever method you use. Your readers will become used to it and probably will look for it.

Replies:   Lugh
tppm

@Ross at Play

Does your character have knowledge of what will happen in the future?


He could go on about his business calmly while everyone around him is panicking, because he knows that in a day or two the Russians will back down, and the world won't immolate itself.

Lugh

Yes and no. He knows how it happened in our timeline, with hindsight having become aware of major declassifications. In the new timeline, he isn't sure if war will break out, and is trying to stabilize the situation.

The Others do update him on details. Thinking of myself in the real world, I might know generally what happened on a given day, but need to check reference materials on a specific point.

Both sides had their hard-liners that wanted combat. Eventually, Kennedy and Khrushchev became informal allies against them.

In a lot of ways, I almost look at our timeline as the alternate history -- nuclear war was only narrowly averted.

Lugh

@docholladay

I did stick a glossary into the prologue. My inclination now is to add a Historical Appendix when the story finishes.

docholladay

@Lugh

Just try and be consistent in which ever method you use. Your fans will look for which ever method you decide on, in future stories.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Lugh


add a Historical Appendix when the story finishes


I have just noticed the release your story is incomplete.

I would try to treat the story itself as sacrosanct, so having a Historical Appendix at the end seems correct for when it is finished. Adding references to the Appendix inside the story at that time does not seem intrusive.

I can also see some readers would appreciate you providing that information now.

My solution for that would be using your blog as the first draft of the Appendix, and adding a comment in the story description to indicate what is currently in your blog.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ross at Play

Mt solution to that would be using your blog as the first draft of the Appendix, and add a comment in the story description of what is currently in the blog.


I have noticed that over a period of time the blog entries disappear. I am not sure what that time setting is however. I just noticed because of some notifications in a blog which vanished after a while. One notice that vanished that way was the death notification of "GoldenMage" by his son. It has been good while and wouldn't be that big a problem if the notice had been added to the profile section instead. The profile segment seems to be permanent.

Replies:   REP
REP

@docholladay

There should be a note at the end of your blog that says:

Caution: Blog entries get deleted automatically after two years.

docholladay

@REP

True, that little incident just made me wonder how many other possible notices went unnoticed. His son had uploaded one or more chapters he had finished with a note on the blog about the death of his father.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

Caution: Blog entries get deleted automatically after two years.


This is not an automatic thing. I suspect Lazeez reviews some and gives them a marker to keep them around when they relate to authors passing on, because there are a few that are over the 2 year mark. Also, it's my experience a blog with a lot of entries is more likely to have them start disappearing after 2 years, as if they're affected by the total size.

docholladay

@Ernest Bywater

I suspect Lazeez reviews some and gives them a marker to keep them around when they relate to authors passing on


I believe he moves or places those notifications into the profile section since that is a permanent feature or it seems that way.

Pity is at the time I didn't realize that would happen. If I had known, I would have used the web master link to notify Lazeez. Asking him to place the dates in the profile. Live and learn as everyone says. From now on if I run across something like that I will make sure to pass the word on unless someone has already added the info to the profile.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Ernest Bywater

Just checked my blog and it does have entries older than two years. Maybe the note needs updating.

REP

@docholladay

One possibility for retrieval is if Lazeez maintains a history file of deletes or server backup files that contain your lost posts. He may be willing to restore them.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@REP

One possibility for retrieval is if Lazeez maintains a history file of deletes or server backup files that contain your lost posts. He may be willing to restore them.


Nope, once deleted they're gone.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Ernest Bywater

This is not an automatic thing.


Correct.

I had intended to make it automatic, but my schedule never allowed as it wasn't deemed a crucial thing.

The blogging system has built in monitoring, so when a certain threshold is crossed, I take manual action.

Currently I do look over the entries to decide whether to delete them or not. If the entries are from the 'chapter xx has been posted' variety and have nothing much, I delete them. If they're more substantial, then I usually leave them.

Also, I don't delete the last entry made by an author to leave a record for readers to figure out when the author was last active perhaps.

The note is in the blog facilities for author to make sure that authors understand that they can't rely on a blog entry remaining there indefinitely. I also provided the 'save to backup' button so that authors don't lose anything they value.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Perhaps we should all make a mental note to ask Lazeez what is happening in the future, rather than speculate.
I have sent in a number feature requests for the site, and the answers have almost always been "It's already there" or "It's on my list of things to do".

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ross at Play

That is why I said if another notification of that type appears. I will forward the information to Lazeez so he can possibly put the key information into the author profile section. That might help in the future. I never really expected him to be able to watch every little detail on site. That is where all of us whether simply readers or writers or editors have to try and help out. At least this helps me learn from my "MISTAKE" in not notifying him via the web master link.

Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

I did stick a glossary into the prologue. My inclination now is to add a Historical Appendix when the story finishes.

Getting back on topic (since I was indisposed and couldn't respond earlier), and appendix can only be added after the story completes. A better option, for an ongoing story, is a preface you can update, and then when the story completes delete the preface entirely and move the info. to a new Appendix.

But once you take that tact, expect readers to ask for it in the future. Footnotes at the end of the chapter aren't a bad option, as most readers won't give them a second notice, but interested readers can read up. Since SOL is text based, the footnotes should appear as plain text (not reduced in size).

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

Its also the reason I said which ever methods he decides on. To keep them consistent in all of his stories. His fans will look for that feature in the future.

Its like the way Ernest formats his stories. The method is consistent with all of his stories. I bet all of his fans would notice in a heartbeat if that changed.

At some point every writer comes up with some method to handle things. It might not be a conscious behavior but the fans will definitely notice if it changes.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

Its also the reason I said which ever methods he decides on. To keep them consistent in all of his stories. His fans will look for that feature in the future.

Its like the way Ernest formats his stories. The method is consistent with all of his stories. I bet all of his fans would notice in a heartbeat if that changed.

Case in point, how I conveyed telepathy in my stories. I started out with a short notice in one series, explaining the technique used (italics within single quotes) and I used it consistently across all six books. But generally, each author handles internal thoughts somewhat differently.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

each author handles internal thoughts somewhat differently

Any suggestions for ways to handle internal thoughts you consider effective?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Any suggestions for ways to handle internal thoughts you consider effective?


I put them in italics, treat the punctuation as dialogue, but don't use any apostrophes or quotation marks. Also suitable context helps. Example from Will to Survive.

Thought quote text:

A few seconds later he's thinking, Was that the drones we shot and blew up? Now he's not so sure of that, because of the abort command. He thought it was a test, but the explosion now has him wondering about what did happen. Whatever went off did so in a big way, and he's not seen anything make such a large fireball so quick before. Even so, there should be something still on fire, and he can't see any flames at all.

End quote

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Any suggestions?

Thanks, EB. I can see readers being comfortable with that style.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ross at Play

Its why I personally think each writer to some extent will develop their own style. The trick is when you choose one. Use it consistently in future stories. Until you find the style that is right for you and your stories. The difference will show up as a learning curve. I admit from what I have read in the forums, most experienced writers do not want their fans to see the growth in their skills. Others like me appreciate that because it makes you human.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I put them in italics, treat the punctuation as dialogue, but don't use any apostrophes or quotation marks. Also suitable context helps. Example from Will to Survive.

Ernest's technique is probably the cleanest, although others put the thoughts in single quotes with no italics, which others use the ubiquitous "he thought" references.

The trick, when writing about telepathy, is that it's an internal thought that's shared like dialogue, so I took what was a somewhat accepted standard on SOL at the time of combining the two techniques, using italics within single quotes to mark the passages off so it's clear that it's neither speech nor thoughts.

@Docholladay

I admit from what I have read in the forums, most experienced writers do not want their fans to see the growth in their skills.

Not me. Knowing how difficult the learning process is, I'd rather save everyone else the effort. What I suspect happens with the others is that, rather than having readers struggle through their earlier work, they go back and revise their earlier stories to incorporate everything they've learned since.

docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

Not me. Knowing how difficult the learning process is, I'd rather save everyone else the effort. What I suspect happens with the others is that, rather than having readers struggle through their earlier work, they go back and revise their earlier stories to incorporate everything they've learned since.


In that process they stop telling new stories. Kind of defeats the purpose. I am not ashamed to admit my lack of knowledge and skills. Although I have taught myself a lot. I do know and admit my limitations as Clint Eastwood said in that Dirty Harry movie.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

they go back and revise their earlier stories to incorporate everything they've learned since.


I find doing this useful for a number of reasons. It means they're uniform in their presentation and style, also you helps to fill in time when the muse is taking a break, and reviewing the old stories often triggers ideas for new stories.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@docholladay


In that process they stop telling new stories. Kind of defeats the purpose


For the perfectionists among us the purpose is be to be the best that we can be. I have no problem with that.

Replies:   docholladay
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I find doing this useful for a number of reasons. It means they're uniform in their presentation and style, also you helps to fill in time when the muse is taking a break, and reviewing the old stories often triggers ideas for new stories.

There comes a point where it's difficult to work on older stories without wanting to revise or rewrite the entire thing. It's okay to undertake that, but it's best to limit how caught up you get in that process. In your case, Ernest, when you have so many older works, updating one or two at a time might not be too onerous while allowing you to reflect on how far you've advanced. But I think many would agree with docholladay, they'd rather see newer stories developed rather than older stories updated.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
docholladay

@Ross at Play

True, but using CW and Ernest as examples. There comes a time to just move on to another story. Perfection is their goal, but even they know when to let go.

Ross at Play

@docholladay

Perfection is their goal

To make my meaning perfectly clear, "the best that we can be" will be a bit short of "perfection" - even for perfectionists. Then we can let go and move on.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ross at Play

How true. That is why I said its a goal. Personally I believe perfection is achieved by trying to improve on what you did yesterday.

Like when I did leather work, I was never satisfied. But after that first cut or bevel was done the only thing to do was finish carefully. Funny thing was it seemed the next gun rig always turned out a little better and a little faster.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

There comes a point where it's difficult to work on older stories without wanting to revise or rewrite the entire thing.


yeah, with the old stuff, AFTER I've done a revision I'll only read it from SoL or the e-pub, because I don't get the urge to make changes that way.

Ernest Bywater

@docholladay

Perfection is their goal, but even they know when to let go.


True, I've done revisions at times, but only when it fixes a reported error or I've made a major change in style since I last worked on - ie a few years later with lots of changes in style between. I doubt anything I revise this year will every be revised again, my style has been fairly even for about 18 months now.

Ross at Play

@docholladay

after that first cut or bevel was done the only thing to do was finish carefully

I tried painting classes for a while. Water colours drove me insane. Once any mark dries, every attempt to fix any problem WILL make it worse. I was NEVER satisfied. I would have given up quickly if I had not changed the oils.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ross at Play

I think its like anything we do personally whether its leather crafts, art or writing or heck even gardening. Everyone else can always talk about how good it is. But we always see how much we actually did wrong, so we are never satisfied with our own work.

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

Like when I did leather work, I was never satisfied. But after that first cut or bevel was done the only thing to do was finish carefully. Funny thing was it seemed the next gun rig always turned out a little better and a little faster.

The funny thing is, while that's true in writing, I've long noted that any author's first published work (assuming they learned how to write early) is typically their best work, as their ideas and premises are the clearest. Over time, they continue to tell the same story, but their messages generally get disguised and become more convoluted. There's something to be said for being direct and to the point, rather than continually refining your point.

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