Appendices in Novels

Things I do not like to see in novels – Kalbzayn’s World

This is a bit of old news, but sometimes I keep things in my writing queue for longer than I should.

In the article cited above, Kalbzayn complains about supplemental material in speculative fiction novels.

Right away, before the story begins, Holly includes a guide giving rules on how to pronounce the names in the story…

…I absolutely hate stuff like this. I was an Arabic linguist for a while and truly have an appreciation for languages that sound quite a bit differently than English. When I read a book, I don’t want to think about these kind of rules.

I am not a fan of detailed maps for the same reason either […] I can normally get a good enough picture of the location in my head if the author has done their job. Us readers should never have to rely on a map to make sense of what is going on.

Now, maybe I’m just a geek or whatever, but I actually prefer having those kinds of things included in a book. I’ve always loved maps – in fifth grade (back when PCs were primitive and no one had ever heard of color monitors) I’d spend hours playing with a game that quizzed you on the locations of various countries. I’ve always had a good sense about geography, and having maps of a fantasy or science fiction world helps me visualize better how the author pictures his own universe. It gives me a better sense of where things are located in relation to one another and better understand why, for example, it might take weeks (rather than days) to travel from Point A to Point B.

Similarly, when character names are exotic or unusual, I appreciate it when authors include a pronunciation guide. For example, “Tobias Buckell”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com includes a pronunciation guide in “Crystal Rain”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html%3FASIN=0765312271%26tag=writersblog05-20%26lcode=xm2%26cID=2025%26ccmID=165953%26location=/o/ASIN/0765312271%253FSubscriptionId=1N9AHEAQ2F6SVD97BE02. Personally, I don’t mind looking these things up as they help me enjoy the universe this author has created. I would rather know how the _author_ pronounces the names rather than try to figure them out for myself and risk botching the job.

Understanding the geography of a speculative universe and knowing how to pronounce names make the universe more authentic and, for me at least, more enjoyable all around. Authors can’t please everyone, of course. Those of us who enjoy these kinds of appendices thank the authors. And those who don’t – well, you’re allowed to just skip them.

One thought on “Appendices in Novels”

Have anything to add to the conversation?