Thoughts on Author's Commentary

As the title suggests, I'm interested in what you guys think about author's commentaries.

Do you think it enhances reader interaction and opens up a story more?

Or do you think, like when a magician reveals how his trick works, it lessens the reading experience?

If you do like it, where does it belong? In italics at the start of a chapter, as its own post, as a comment?

I'd really like to see your arguments for and against.

I personally do a post mortem every time I come to the end of what I call a book. This is less for the reader's benefit and more for my own. As an author, I believe it helps my writing to critique myself in public. That being said, one of these post mortems did generate a healthy amount of discussion, more so than the average story post usually does.

I put in author notes in comments, but never ones revealing pertinent information unless I believe that info might need be addressed for the readers (for example- people in my setting believe Hitler had mind control powers. He didn't. But unreliable narration extends to historians as well).

Generally, my notes are things along the lines of saying which chapters/side characters/etc that I feel most strongly about. I'll occasionally say things that are dead obvious and claim they're spoilers, for comedic value.

And I'll always use it to thank people who recommend my story to others (Wordpress lets you know where your hits are coming from... so it's pretty simple to simply click and go "huh, cool" and say thanks later).

I consider it a great way to connect with and form a personal relationship with the audience. But only very rarely will I give away information about the setting in it.

I personally abhor author notes in the immediate vincinity of the story (don't even get me started on in-line notes).

That said I'm perfectly aware the well-read titles on Wattpad and RRL (wellread defined as a million plus views) more or less always come with those notes.

That makes me wrong and them right. I won't change. Chalk it down to my advanced age and associated conservatism.

I don't put author notes on the Antlers Tumblr or Wattpad, but I do let readers ask questions and discuss updates with me on my personal social media accounts! It's a habit I picked up from co-running a webcomic for a few years prior to Antlers. A lot of webcomic creators freely engage with their audience on websites like and discuss their process or elaborate on worldbuilding stuff that may or may not make it into the actual material they put out.

I enjoy commentaries for a few reasons... first, as a writer, because I like referencing some of the subtler points in my stories, to see if anyone else picked up on them (plus I may forget myself in time!). Second, as a reader, because I like reading about how others put things together, so I figure maybe others would like to read about me. It might even help someone else out, or make them feel better about their own struggles. And finally, because VERY few people I know read my fiction, but some will read my non-fiction, meaning my commentary posts tend to be the most popular. (Yeah, mixed feelings there.)

In terms of where it belongs, I'm inclined to say it's own post. I mean, if it's a couple sentences, it could be a comment... but you'd have to read the post to get that far. So the proximity is only really a positive if people are already engaged in the material - granted, I suppose you can check your stats or other comments to see if that's the case. I'm against the "italics at the start" idea, it pulls me out of the story. (I mind it a bit less at the end, but at that point it could simply be a comment!) And the final benefit of it's own post is that people who don't read the story can still check it out (see the end of my last paragraph). I used to do a commentary post for T&T every other week; I've since cut that back.

Weeeell...I kinda have a problem with author comments past a certain point.

Sometimes they are quit interesting, I have to admit. But mostly they are kind of cheating. If your text doesn't address the points your comment does...what is the purpose? Like, why should I care if Dumbledore was gay? Cool for him, maybe makes the background a bit more tragic. But doesn't change anything.

Pluy there is the strong and real possibility of an author not understanding his own work and commenting things that make it 'worse'. We've seen it countless times in Film with Indiana Jones IV and the edits and cuts to E.T. and Star Wars and everything Georgd Lucas ever touched basically. Or when Silent Hill 2 got rereleased and they decided to cut the fog away.

Text comments run the same risk.

The risk offilling important 'Leerstellen' or vacancies in the text with something unfitting, unfinished.

From a more philosophical perspective: It is simply manipulative. An artwork is not the belonging of the author when it is published and consumed by the public. It is part of a free and open cultural exchange like any other. Author comments nudge the reader - who before could apply himself freely in his analysis - in a certain direction of interpretation. Very nice of Bradbury to tell me about the evil of TV and how it makes me dumb, shame I get more and a bit more open minded kicks out of reading Fahrenhsit 451 as anti-censorship.

I'm a fan, both in reading them and in writing them. That's actually one of the biggest things that first interested me in Wildbow's writing; he often had commentary going on about what he was dealing with while writing a chapter, or what was going on his life at the time, and I found that that made it much easier to Remember The Human, as the kids say.

Engaging folks in the comment threads can be a lot of fun, and talking about the inspirations on a chapter hopefully drives people to appreciate books and inspiration sources I too have enjoyed.

So long as you're not spoiling your own story or trying to patch holes, I think the practice is a net gain.

I'll write what I want, put it where I want, and fight anyone who tells me different.

I... realize that isn't a terribly helpful answer.

I enjoy reading authors' commentary except when the author is being derogatory about their work "oh, I'm sorry this chapter is so bad, I had a terrible time with it etc..." Then I feel like "Well, I just enjoyed reading it, so what am I, an idiot?" I understand the author will sometimes feel this way, but let the readers decide on their own if it's bad or not. Maybe it really isn't. Don't be so insecure!

I think this is mostly personal preference, and there's no one right way to do it.

That said, I've done both italicized comments prior to the update and the first comment after the update at different points in my serial's existence. Ultimately I've stuck with making a comment immediately after the update. Why? For some people putting comments at the top of the post pulls people out of the story, especially if they're doing an archive crawl. Putting authorial comments immediately after the story is less intrusive because if you're reading the comments, you're expecting to be pulled out of the story.

Plus there's the added bonus of effectively starting the comments and giving people something additional to react to.

Agreeing with @Jim Zoetewey, here. Commentary belongs in comment threads, from authors and readers alike.

Agreed wholeheartedly. Sticking comments in the story itself only works for comedic material.

... Because comedy gets to break every rule, as long as it's funny. That's the law...

I very rarely put important commentary at the beginning of a chapter - short, 2 lines tops. For instance, when I was so sick that I had to insert an interlude before the arc finale. I didn't want readers to believe that I robbed them of an 'ending' for that arc, and many readers have comments disabled or don't read them, so 2 lines at the beginning are the only method that will reach everyone.

From my POV as a reader, I really like the commentary, but only after I've read it. The most damningly frustrating thing is for someone to talk about what they've written before I've had a chance to actually freaking read it. It's like when you're marathoning a show and you have to furious stomp on the stop button when it hits the next episode's previews - give me five seconds and I'll get there. Geez.

From my writing perspective, I also love it, but I get so paranoid about revealing something in advance. I can only talk about what's happened already, I feel, and anything else hinting at future ideas is a massive, party-pooping spoiler. I wrote a giant commentary of my first fifteen posts on serial's blog, linking it to the end of my fifteenth post, so it's satisfying thah 'as a reader' need, but I've gotten looser with my 'only talk about what happened' rule to get into the overall story's development better. I'm slightly worried I spoiled too much, even though I know I didn't, but the focus is all on my writing techniques and original plans for what made the final cut.

It's gonna be damn fun to flip through over time. :D

Yeah, a commentary functionality visibly 'away' from the content proper is fine by me as well.

I was forced to drop a note at the beginning of a chapter today, hilariously enough.

A serious edit and rewrite where a scene from the prior chapter was removed from that chapter and put into the new one, because I seriously borked the story flow the way it originally was. But readers of said prior chapter needed the head's up.

... I'll be deleting it shortly, but still...

I don't put any commentary in the chapter release itself. Anything I have to say gets shoved to a post on the front page or down in the comments section (Outside the book portion) - I do this because I feel any sort of author commentary ruins immersion in a first person narrative. I spend far too much time reading poorly translated works and most of them are filling with PR asides, jokes between reviewers and editors, or other sanity breaking nonsense. It's hard enough reading a work riddled with typos - then having (Author Duder - Hehehehe, LOOK) right next to it.

I don't know of any Web Fiction works that do it (my desire to read new works has dropped significantly since I started writing) but I honestly banging people with a frying pan when it does happen. This is especially true if I'm working my way through a large backlog and haven't caught up with the released content.

As mentioned by others - the commentary has to be 'away' from the proper content.

Personally, I like seeing the author's thoughts on their work, but usually only after I've read the full story. Sometimes it's interesting to see them go back and recount their thought process. However, I see this more often with web comics and video games. Having an author's note under every chapter of a web serial would probably get a little off putting. Easy enough to just not read it, but on a personal note, I know that the more I tell "about" my story, the less compelled I would be to write the rest of it. I imagine that kind of lethargy could negatively affect the work of others.