1. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Footnotes?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by KhalieLa, Oct 15, 2015.

    I did a read through of my prologue and chapter 1 with my son last night since he is my target audience (18 yr/old). He had two main criticisms; 1) provide a map and 2) footnote anything not in English.

    My inspiration and cultural setting is central Europe, Iron Age. Words crop up depenging on the speaker so there are smatterings of Celtic, Germanic, and Norsk.

    So--where to do draw the footnote line?
    I've already footnoted long passages and dialogue that are not in English. But didn't footnote single words in the text such as bairn, Jarl, etc. because in context they should make sense. My son was struggling with non-English time references/holidays; Beltane, Lughnasad, Alban Elfed, Alban Eirler, etc.
    Do I footnote these as well? I was using footnotes just for translation. If I start using footnote for definition would that confuse the reader?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've seen books where they have a list of the terms used in the back of the book like a kind of mini dictionary. I always found them quite helpful as you could check on the word and flip back to your spot in the story.
     
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  3. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    You might consider handling it as Peter Tremayne does in his series of books about ancient Ireland. He writes a lot of short passages in Latin, common language of the characters in the book, and then works in the English version of the statement in various ways, no footnotes required. I think this makes the reading flow a little easier. In your situation you might have a character restate the foreign sentence in English for their own understanding as an example.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should keep in mind that readers may not like having to consult footnotes all the time. It can get annoying having to stop reading and look at the bottom of the page for clarification. You may want to consider making any unknown words clear based on context. That's always a good way to go about it in my opinion. Also, you may not want to include any long passages not written in English. Sometimes this can hurt your publication chances. Just a few things to consider.
     
  5. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I love footnotes - I am an academic researcher! That being said, my opinion is horribly skewed and likely irrelevant because I am part of a fringe group. Good translations of Tolstoy use footnotes and he produced wonderful baggy monsters - though these focused on historical footnotes not required by the readership of the era. For proper context, they are included to aid understanding of the curious reader.

    My advice: Footnote the first use and add concise glossary for easy consultation.

    Just do not pull an Ota on your reader - keep the self-indulgent smarty-pants material out unless it is important.
     
  6. Starfire Fly
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    Starfire Fly Member

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    I actually think what you're doing sounds kind of cool. I'm going to need some kind of glossary, too, but I'm thinking of using just that: some kind of appendix or else a list in the front. I've seen a lot of fantasy novels with those, especially older ones. I think, depending on the genre, it would actually heighten the reader's engagement. Not to mention give your world a more immediate, real sort of feel (assuming you do it well and not gratuitously, of course).
     
  7. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have the same issue with my WIP, a 1st century setting, with words and terms in Latin, Chinese, Mongol (surrogate for the unknown Xiongnu language) etc. I suggest the pattern set down by Lindsey Davis (Marcus Didius Falco series) and Colleen McCollough (1st Man in Rome series). On the first use of a foreign word, italicize it, immediately translate it or describe it... "vexillatio detachment", "lian-yu, a remarkable rapid fire cross bow," "buzkashi, a game played on horseback with a goat carcass, the objective to get the goat through the goals, no intentional killing of the opponents, but no other rules seemed to apply." If I use the word often enough subsequent uses don't get translated.

    Only it a few cases did I use whole phrases, one when the senior officer informs the centurion that as he had no choice, then in finest Roman Army tradition, profluit ex satio, it all flows downhill, and the centurion doesn't get one either. Any one who has been in the military will identify with that timeless tradition!

    And in one case when a legion marches out what had been certain execution, they pick up their marching song in Latin, immediately translated. I retained the Latin because for those can read it and pronounce it correctly, it is the familiar, "You had a good home, but you left - your right" rhythm. For those who can't, it's "Whether we follow the eagles, or go to the crows alone." Compliments of Legio XIV Gemina's marching song, lightly edited, not sure how it got preserved for 2000 years.

    I also have a glossary of foreign words, and also a place names cross reference since I am using period names, Eudaemon Arabia instead of Aden, Warnu instead of Kunduz, Bactres rather than Balkh. I have a list of characters, with asterisks identifying the ones who actually existed vs. the fictional ones.

    I have a friend who published a semi fictional historical piece that he footnoted, but I strongly don't recommend it!
     
  8. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Wow! Thanks for the suggestions!

    I think I'm going to create a glossary to be placed in an appendix with the map.

    My son was stumbling over things like, "After three days of Beltane celebrations," and "One came through not long after Imbolg." I think most readers will skip right over that, but for inquiring minds like my son's, he wanted to know what Beltane and Imbolg were AND when they were. I'll put a diagram of the wheel of the year in back and also include a Celtic tree calendar because I do have characters saying things like, "Absent Gods Helga, it's the middle of the Hazel Moon and you've got a fire going!"

    I was hoping the map would take care of most of this. My characters would be trading with Byzantium, not Constantinople or Istanbul. Adding a list of place names and a little historical information in an appendix isn't a bad idea.
     
  9. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    On first use, identify what the Holidays are and when they occur, preferably by dialogue.

    I included maps in each chapter as they were moving around, so when the reader hits the chapter where the ships sail from Myos Hormos to Eudaemon Arabia, he knows it is from the the northern fork of the Red Sea to Aden at its mouth.
     
  10. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    When it's just a single word I think it works in context, so I'm not bothering with those. Example, "First, I dosed you with pennyroyal to make sure you didn't already have a bairn in your belly." Or, "I may have to tie you to the mast with the rest of the thralls."

    The footnotes are just for longer passages.

    By longer it's usually a couple complete sentences, though at one point it does take half a page. The purpose of the extra language is that sometimes they don't want others around them to know what they are saying, so repeating the comment in English is no good. They don't realize until 1/2 through the book that the MC is multi-lingual and that she actually understood everything they'd been saying.

    I love footnotes too. I drove the librarians bonkers when I was after a version of War & Peace that had literal translations of the French, not colloquial ones. There is nothing more irritating than seeing "L'esprit de l'escalier" translated as "hindsight is 20/20." Especially, if the field of optometry hadn't been invented yet!
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
  11. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    So one last question for all of you; How do I title this stupid thing?
    I'm using Iron Age Celts and their culture as a stand in for Dwarfs. Similarly, Germanic peoples are Elves based of early Norse Mythology. So do I simply say, "Celtic Tree Calendar," which is what it actually is, or do I call it the Dwarfish Calendar as I have done here?
     

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  12. Iain Wood
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    Iain Wood Member

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    Hi KhalieLa...

    I have a similar problem !
    In the manuscript of my Battle of Waterloo story, (http://www.writingforums.org/threads/the-battle-of-waterloo.142118/) I have hundreds of cross-references; to such an extent that there’s just as much to read and learn from them, than there is in the story itself.
    However, as ‘thirdwind’ mentioned about the flow, they can be a distraction so I’ll probably end up with some editor on my back asking for slashes.

    Nonetheless, as my book is not just an intimate description of a battle within a battle, I am also seeking ambiance, over and above from what can be seen, heard and smelt by the ‘hero.’ As such and in order not to exclude the reader from the out-of-sight activities like cavalry charges etc..., what to footnote, quantity and where to put it has become an issue.

    I have come to one conclusion though..., “where to put it”!
    I received a copy of the 1853 narrative from RHQ archives (38-pages) where the writer has all the footnotes at the bottom of the pages. (which must have been difficult to do when writing in ink..., see example)
    On the other hand, when reading a 2006 typewritten copy, the Editor has all the cross-references at the back..., and there’s nothing more frustrating than thumbing the back pages every time I encounter an index number.

    As such and in order to assist the ‘flow,’ mine will most certainly be at the foot of the page !

    Page 23.jpg
    Good luck..., Iain.
     
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