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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Front Matter matters…or does it?

Working on the front matter for Isle of Swords now. With The Door Within Books, my editors and I agreed it was a good idea to include a List of Characters and Principal Settings, each with a pronunciation guide.

For Isle of Swords, my editors again have asked for this. We are also including two diagrams" a map of the Caribbean and a line drawing of a typical tall ship. We are debating a list of nautical terms: aft, keel, starboard, etc.

Interestingly, some folks didn't like the character/setting lists in the DW books. One even said, it bugged them--found it insulting.

I don't know. I think for a YA title, its good to have them. What do you think?

11 comments:

Tina said...

You know, I've never cared for them and never read them. Of course, I've never looked at it from the prospective of being a youth reading a book. I'm a 34 year old Mom and if I can't figure out how to pronounce something I make it up or I skip over it. I've always done this though, from the time I started devouring books at age 10.

spyscribbler said...

I don't read much YA, but teaching kids and teens all the time, I'd say they're more similar to adults than we often give them credit for.

Not to say you don't, but I'm going to give my two cents about the character lists at the beginnin of the Harlequin Intrigues, so I thought I should qualify my comparison.

I pretty much skip them. They're annoying. BUT, once in awhile, a really good author will make me look at the character list by making the attached description lively and interesting--maybe funny or quirky or intriguing. I'm sure all the authors try to do that, but only a few succeed.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Tina, I think most people really do just make up their own pronunciation. It always weirds me out when I hear the different renditions of Tolkien's Gandalf. "Gon-dolf" "Gan-delf" "Gain-dalf" Etc.

And, Spy, being in the classroom with middle schoolers everyday, I see that they do use the cast of characters to remind themselves of who's who in a story like mine with lots of strange character names.

Becky said...

Wayne, I use character lists and maps. Especially maps. In the first DW book I didn't like being confronted with the list of characters right off. I don't exactly know why--just seemed a bit ostentatious or something. In RotWL, I looked at the list--briefly. In FS, I studied it, was glad for it, gave me anticipation of what was to come.

I'm thinking, maybe for a first book, the character list and map should be back matter instead of front matter. That way, people who want it have it but the people bugged by it don't have to see it every time they open the book.

Becky

WayneThomasBatson said...

I like having it in the back as well. It's a reference that way. However, it seems to be standard practice to find it at the beginning. Even in adult books like Clancy, Patrick Robinson, Steven Erikson--they all have it in the front.

Mark Goodyear said...

I'm a Tolkein fan, so I adore the maps and lists and appendices. As a kid my favorite Narnia book was Dawn Treader--in part because the version I read had a wonderful diagram of the ship.

I certainly don't think it is insulting to include character lists and maps. I'm curious that some readers would be insulted by including them.

Amy said...

I read tons of YA Fantasy and absolutely LOVE all character lists, maps, pronuciation guides, etc. I'm 29 and so it isn't as if I need it to help me because of my age. I just feel it adds an element of depth to the story. I really feel like I can get a better look into the author's head if I have the little details like pronunciation. It helps me to not get hung up on names and new words.

It's funny - because I actually use the presence of these elements as a marker for the quality of a book. It helps me decide whether or not to invest my time in it. I feel like it shows that little bit of extra effort that will make the book worth my time. Most great fantasy books contain all these elements. Part of fantasy as a genre is that we need to "see" what the author "saw" when writing or creating this new and exciting environment.

So yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Please include all the important background info and it will continue to enrich your books and endear them to many many fans.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Mark and Amy, that's an interesting take on the front matter. I'm a big fan of the anniversary editions of books which usually have all the cool "extra stuff." Maps, artwork by the author, forewords, etc.

Isle of Swords will have quite a bit of front--and back--matter to browse through!

Jaymekay65 said...

I Think its great. It really helps understand the book and the maps help alot. It helps the reader understand what they are reading.

Ps. You can respond to tyler. I have to sign onto my moms account

WayneThomasBatson said...

Thanks for the insight, Tyler. Glad the front matter helps you get a better grip on the story being told. Like any good text feature, though, a reader must know it's there. I guess that comes from prior experience and from just being observant.

Re Allyssa said...

Yay for commenting on old posts. I hope you don't mind. :)

I like the names and pronunciation guide in the front of the book. (Mainly because my phonetic skills fail and I never pronounce names correctly.) But sometimes when reading them, I do worry about spoilers from the descriptions. I like to find out about the characters through reading the book. Sometimes reading descriptions takes away some of the magic. I've taken to not reading the back summary of a book if I already know I want to read it.

Just throwing my two cents in, if you still want them. :)

With all praises to the King,
Mari Mercado