Author's Notes; Friend or Foe?

Author's Notes; Friend or Foe? To my mind, there are three types of Author's Note (AN from here on); the Plead, the Threat, and the Thanks.

The most obvious and probably most used, is The Plead. Commonly found within the first chapter or prologue of a story, the plead will follow the standard structure of "This is my first chapter, not sure whether I like or if I should continue, so comments please?

There are both pros and cons to the pleading AN. On the positive side, the Plead invites readers to comment, and demonstrates a certain modesty. On the other hand, it also sounds a little desperate and often incorporates excuses.

Of course, a sense of balance will always help keep the Plead in check - it's probably best to avoid the "Oh god, please tell me this is all right before I give up and die!?!" or the more depressing, "It's shit, I know, please help me."

Having attempted to avoid the Plead, it is very easy to swing to the opposite; The Threat. Structured around requesting a certain quota of comments or subscribers before next updating, the Threat is comparable to Mibbian blackmail. It's rare to find a threat phrased as bluntly as "Comment or I'll murder your family." but the threat has a similar negativity.

There is little positive to mention about the Threat, as, although it too invites readers to comment, it more often than not implies the opposite. Human nature stresses rebellion, and faced with the choice of commenting or annoying someone by not doing so, most readers will immediately throw the Threat back in the author's face by leaving immediately. (Guilty as charged, I'm afraid) And after all that, shouldn't we thank the one steadfast reader who clings on and comments at each update with unfailing loyalty?

The finally category, the Thanks, seems to have its roots in the Award Ceremony Acceptance speech. "I'd just like to thank SmushleBerry for her amazing editing, StolenGenius for her help with the plot, my mum for her constant cups of tea, and of course you, my lovely readers! Because where would I be without you?"

On one side, it's nice to thank the people who help. On the other, you may accidentally make yourself look like you think you're a better writer than you actually are, or that you've gotten so much help that there's very little of yourself in the story. So whereas the Thanks is the most rooted in the positive, it also has a tendency to backfire.

Therefore, you may ask, what can I write in the AN?

Well, nothing is a common default for most authors, but now you run the risk of seeming aloof and unfriendly, a rival to Mr Darcy's sullen silence.

"What the hell do I do then?!" you cry.

As with my early experiments with making mud pies as a child, I find that a little dash of everything does the trick. A dash of plead, a dollop of threat, a sprinkle of thanks and the all-important secret ingredient - the signature.

The signature is a common ingredient left out by many Mibbians, but one which can never fail to keep your readers. By putting your name at the bottom of your AN (whatever home-made mixture of plea, threat or thanks it may be) you pass a gift over to your reader, an intimate signal of trust and open friendship in the disclosure of your name. Cheesy, huh? But oh-so-productive.

Therefore, in conclusion, my dearest readers of this article, avoid being desperate, over-aggressive or arrogant. Attempt in your ANs a subtle balance of modesty, confidence and friendship. And a little drop of humour hardly fails either but avoid toilet jokes at all costs. It's tough, but we'll get there I'm sure.

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