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Placement of glossary

Lugh

This morning, I had a reader complain that it took him 30 minutes to read the "Prologue and Glossary" of "Tomorrow is another Day." Frankly, this baffled me; I wouldn't have expected, as apparently he did, that the glossary is part of the story.

Scholarly works, I find, tend to put the glossary at the end, but technothrillers, my genre, tend to put it in the beginning. That's Tom Clancy's practice.

Is this a case of confusion, or should the Preface have a bold red line saying "Glossary is an appendix" and move the Glossary to the end?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Lugh

This morning, I had a reader complain that it took him 30 minutes to read the "Prologue and Glossary" of "Tomorrow is another Day."


The Prologue is part of the story while the glossary is usually separate to be used as a reference work when needed. If posting a story all at once I'd post the glossary at the back, but posting a story over time you need to have the glossary at the front so people can use it while reading the story as it goes up.

Replies:   Gauthier
Crumbly Writer

The same thing happens with a character list. Normally, these are 'back of the book' sections, but in a series, they get posted first so they can be updated and referenced over the course of the story. However, I've discovered that many readers read these--even though they may contain spoilers (about characters not yet introduced and when they appear). I learned this when readers started posting corrections to my 'cast of characters', something they shouldn't be reading after only a couple chapters.

I'd suggest not posting the Glossary, but posting a notice that 'A Glossary will be appended', or in listing the Glossary initially in a blog post to avoid confusion, then added it to the end once the story is fully posted.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'd suggest not posting the Glossary, but posting a notice that 'A Glossary will be appended', or in listing the Glossary initially in a blog post to avoid confusion, then added it to the end once the story is fully posted.


such an action will guarantee many won't consider reading the story until after it's finished, if they remember to bookmark it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Lugh
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Crumbly Writer makes an excellent point about spoilers. I've avoided cast of character postings for that reason.

At one point, I thought of having a character list per universe, but Lazeez explained, reasonably, that readers expect stories in files, and posting a reference separately would throw off stats.

In the technothriller genre, posting acronyms and definitions, including historical characters, isn't going to produce spoilers. If I use as many acronyms as in real life, unless one has lived in that culture, the glossary is apt to be needed. Tom Clancy did it, and I consider him the god of such things. (Even had some discussions with him on USENET. He put in a preface that he had deliberately fogged some details of a nuclear weapon. I pointed out that his biological weapons wouldn't work as described, and got back a smiley).

Replies:   rustyken
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

such an action will guarantee many won't consider reading the story until after it's finished, if they remember to bookmark it.

I'm not so sure about that. There are readers who read stories as they post, and those who only read completed stories, but I doubt anyone would refuse to read a story until a glossary is posted.

In terms of a Character List, it's best not to include one unless there are a LOT of characters who can be easily confused or easily forgotten (i.e. not seen in the story for multiple chapters).

In terms of a glossary, it's generally best to explain terms in context (ex: "Joe was an MP (Military Police)" or "Joe was an MP, tasked with keeping order on the base"), rather than requiring readers to keep jumping in and out of the story.

Yes, Tom Clancy did include a Glossary, but that was in a printed book, where he could include the full glossary in the full book, which is different than posting a story a chapter at a time.

In general, unexpected files get read less. Prologues typically get about 40 to 60% reads (depending on genres and whether readers are used to encountering them). Prefaces, which explain aspects of the story, get even fewer reads (maybe 20%). Character Lists get more, but those are typically overcounted due to read-aheads and readers mistakenly reading them as part of the story (something you don't want).

You can train readers what to expect by consistently offering similar content in each of your stories, but it's a slow process, and you can't expect new readers (always a valued target group) to know what to read and what not to. Mostly what gets read is related to the established genres (ex. Prologues are typical for sci-fi and historical dramas, but not for romances or mysteries).

If you ever want to discuss when it's helpful to include one of these chapters, feel free to ask us, as many of us have experience with a variety of alternate chapters.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I doubt anyone would refuse to read a story until a glossary is posted.


I know quite a few readers who drop a story cold if you include too many unexplained things. Like you, I try to explain them within the context of the story, but not everyone does. Give a reader too many new terms without an explanation and they leave the story, and will often also not come back to that author.

I'm still looking for the dance club known as IHOP.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I'm still looking for the dance club known as IHOP.

You have to own an Apple iPhone to be invited!

BTW, it's "International House of Pancakes", though I'm sure you've figured that out by now.

But yes, tossing hard to decode terms around can get you into a lot of trouble with readers. Anytime you include a fancy or unusual term (for most readers), you need to provide a contextual explanation, otherwise you're preaching to the choir (ex: writing exclusively for military vets instead of general readers) rather than telling a story which everyone can understand.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
rustyken

@Lugh

Perhaps a character list that is updated periodically as the story progresses.. It really doesn't need to be complete when the first chapter is posted. A character list can be helpful to a reader when it takes an extended time to finish posting the story.

Cheers

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

BTW, it's "International House of Pancakes", though I'm sure you've figured that out by now.


yeah 3 years after I first saw it in a story. After about 80 sightings another author actually listed it the right way.

docholladay
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The same thing happens with a character list. Normally, these are 'back of the book' sections, but in a series, they get posted first so they can be updated and referenced over the course of the story. However, I've discovered that many readers read these--even though they may contain spoilers (about characters not yet introduced and when they appear).


That is why I think writers need to take advantage of the ability to upload an updated chapter or edited one. Have the list or glossary posted if desired, but only list currently introduced characters or whatever. Update as new info or characters are introduced in the story itself. I am not sure how practical that would really be however. At least with this method the only time spoilers would appear is after the story is completed.

edited to add: Most readers probably use it the same way as I do. I use it for a quick reference and depending on story will have it open in a separate window for quick access. I hate to admit it but my memory seems to forget all those names.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

That is why I think writers need to take advantage of the ability to upload an updated chapter or edited one. Have the list or glossary posted if desired, but only list currently introduced characters or whatever.

That's what I've always done, but I changed tactics in my most currently posting story. Instead I simply added the entire cast list ahead of time, instead of burdening Lazaar and his minions with updating that many files. I'm not sure what impact it will/won't have, but it just seemed less obsessive.

But I also believe in changing the support files after the story completes. I've always left the character list (or any file that's frequently updated) in the front, but it makes sense to delete the changing cast list and replace it with a completed end of book list (though it's easier to see/access if it's the first thing you see, rather than the last). But you get a lot more false download numbers that way. My Cast list is always my most read chapter in any series, no matter how much (or little) the cast list is used by readers.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

But I also believe in changing the support files after the story completes. I've always left the character list (or any file that's frequently updated) in the front


That is a good method. The character list and other support or reference material is handled in a workable manner. I admit that with writers like you and Ernest, I tend to wait until the final chapter is available to read. For the writers with a story that is being posted as written and edited. The advance postings of the sections with updates as story develops will work. You are right however after the last chapter is posted, they should redo them so they show as the last chapters or sections since neither one is really intended to be a preface chapter. References can be opened with either method by readers if desired.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

That is a good method. The character list and other support or reference material is handled in a workable manner.

Employing larger casts than most authors, I've worked with cast lists often. Another thing I do, during my revision phase, is to produce a "character list by chapter", which identifies who gets introduced in each chapter, this makes adding characters on a chapter basis much easier.

Another useful rule: don't include any characters who only appear in a single or immediately successive chapters (there's really no need to research someone you remember from the last chapter), and don't list anyone who appears in final chapters (again, no need to reference them). Also, officious titles and organizations are often better left to the cast list, rather than including them in the story itself where it'll slow down reading.

Gauthier

@Ernest Bywater

but posting a story over time you need to have the glossary at the front so people can use it while reading the story as it goes up.

That's why there is an abbr tag in html... Check with Lazeez if he can support it.

Crumbly Writer

@Gauthier

That's why there is an abbr tag in html... Check with Lazeez if he can support it.

Although I've known that's an option, and have used it in a story, I've never been sure whether the abbreviation tag is widely recognized by users, or expected (i.e. looked for) in stories. A tag that no one uses is pointless.

Ernest Bywater

@Gauthier

That's why there is an abbr tag in html... Check with Lazeez if he can support it.


Whether he supports it or not, I'd never use it. Simply because it's extra work for me. My master file is set for the story to be produced as a print book and as an e-pub. I'll do a little extra to make it suitable for SoL, but that simply means where and when I have SoL place the glossary chapter, instead of hotlinks through the story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Whether he supports it or not, I'd never use it. Simply because it's extra work for me. My master file is set for the story to be produced as a print book and as an e-pub. I'll do a little extra to make it suitable for SoL, but that simply means where and when I have SoL place the glossary chapter, instead of hotlinks through the story.

I used it in my story (to define my fictional ISSDD technology, but only late in the story. WHen I first introduced it, I weaved the definition into the story so it wasn't necessary.).

Epubs support the < abbr > definitions, and like hot links to purchase your books, you simply remove them from the print books (so the text is no longer underlined). But then again, I've never sold that many print books, I mainly use them as gifts to family, contributors and for auction items. When you hover the mouse over the word/abbreviation, it flashes the definition over the word on the screen, but then, on a touch screen device like a tablet or a phone, I'm not sure how useful it would be (though I still use that to access ASSTR story descriptions when I use my tablet while traveling).

For me, the abbr command isn't really a proper definition, as much as a reminder for terms defined earlier in the story that readers may have forgotten by later chapters. Thus it's more like a memory prompt.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

you simply remove them from the print books


which means going to every time it's referenced and deleting the hotlink. Much easier to have an actual glossary page or two as a separate chapter. Something I'd do as a memory aid, anyway.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

which means going to every time it's referenced and deleting the hotlink. Much easier to have an actual glossary page or two as a separate chapter. Something I'd do as a memory aid, anyway.

As I've said on multiple occasions, maintaining separate formats for each book increases the maintenance substantially. We each draw different dividing lines where we draw the line. Me, I find maintaining text in epubs to be MUCH more onerous work.

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

The same thing happens with a character list. Normally, these are 'back of the book' sections, but in a series, they get posted first so they can be updated and referenced over the course of the story. However, I've discovered that many readers read these--even though they may contain spoilers (about characters not yet introduced and when they appear).

What I have seen in a multi-book story is an updated cast list at the start of each book; this overcomes most of what your readers seem to have objected to.

I have also seen nothing at the start but cast lists at the start of very occasional chapters. I don't think this is a good idea - I do like to be able to refer to the cast list very occasionally and to put them in a chapter makes referring to them difficult. An alternative authors might consider (if they think along these lines) is to put "cast list"s as separate but un-numbered "chapters" shown in the index in their order of appearance

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

put "cast list"s as separate but un-numbered "chapters" shown in the index in their order of appearance


Which is what I do when I provide a cast list at SoL.

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