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They play with typesetting and fonts and design, breaking free of the constraints of language. They borrow techniques and lietmotifs from other cultures. And one of the most interesting and powerful tools popularized by fiction writers of the 20th and 21st centuries is the footnote or endnote. They can add depth or complexity, mislead or clarify 9.

Footnote Examples

The footnote is a powerful, thoroughly postmodern device in fiction. A footnote or endnote drags you out of that trance and forces you to break the connection—essentially, it breaks the fourth wall Footnotes are also used to explore related but wholly separate stories.

The Power of the Footnote

Nabokov uses footnotes to write a hypertextual book that can be read in a variety of ways: either as direct commentary on the poem itself, as a completely separate narrative read in order, or by jumping around from footnote to footnote, piecing the story together in whatever order appeals to you. They deepen and expand, continue the work of developing characters, and offer fascinating background information. However, reading the footnotes is in some sense optional—you can read the book without once referring to the footnotes and come away with a perfectly sound understanding of the story, the characters, the themes, and the allusions.

What Diaz does by breaking much of the background information into footnote form is challenge the reader to consider the value of that information: how essential is it?

5 Creative Ways To Use Footnotes In Fiction

If the primary story is clear and complete without footnotes, what do you lose by not reading them? Interestingly, the two portions of the book can be read separately: each describes a single world and a single story in different ways, from different angles, ultimately making both deeper and richer As the novel progresses, they become longer and more complex—eventually even the footnotes have footnotes—until we hit the infamous Footnote , which is seven pages of small type the length of an entire chapter if printed in normal-sized font.

Wallace uses the footnotes technically, endnotes, as they are gathered at the end of the book to control the reading experience even more tightly than most authors. The author is always in charge, of course; they choose when to provide information, when to introduce characters and events—they control everything we experience as a reader. In Infinite Jest , Wallace goes one step further; he literally stops you whenever he thinks it prudent and forces you to go to the back of the book—to displace, reorient, and then follow his new line of thought for as long as he wants.

Your head just exploded, and Danielewski is made happy.

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Reasons for this could be simple: they add a layer of formality that could prevent some readers from absorbing a story—passages that would be happily devoured if placed on the page in the perfect spot become homework assignments. The disruptive nature of the footnote is also an argument against it. Disruption can be enervating and exciting—but it can also be frustrating and distancing. As opposed to all those novelists who seek to tell a story badly, I suppose.

Except as a doorstop, as almost every experimental novel ever written is approximately the size and mass of a small galaxy. Still waiting for the thrilling film adaptation of a novel that takes place entirely during an escalator ride from one floor to another. The legacy established by Nabokov—that notion of using academic techniques to give form to multiple stories—has been carried forward by Mark Z.

All matters regarding the publication were addressed in letters or in rare instances over the phone. Will Navidson, a prize-winning photographer, sets up cameras in every room of the home. Soon, he discovers that the inside of the house is larger than the outside. Shit only gets weirder from there. The many threads are clarified by use of fonts and position on the page. This could only have been accomplished through the sophisticated and revelatory use of footnotes.

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Danielewski, in effect, questions where narratives can exist in fiction. He places the bulk of House of Leaves in the margins, evokes character through commentary, and creates tension with verisimilitude. Who, a reader may find herself wondering, is real here?

Ask the Editor: You Complete MeFootnotes vs. Endnotes | Xulon Press

Why, then, do we grant him more authority? This is undoubtedly a great challenge to the nature of storytelling, one Danielewski continues to ask in his work. Doug Dorst and J. First of all, like House of Leaves , S.

Entitled Ship of Theseus , and written by the fictional V. Straka, this book is designed to look like an old library copy—it even has a Dewey Decimal number: In the conveniently wide margins, a graduate student and an undergraduate write notes to each other in pen and pencil.

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In addition, sporadically stuffed into the pages are various notes, postcards, photos and letters, left by one student for the other. As in House of Leaves , the format and design of S. To be sure, not all novels that use footnotes do so for experimental or progressive reasons. Even here, though, the footnotes create a sense of reality, since the person who finds the letter is name Ruth, who is a writer. Still others hope to pull out more emotional elements from footnotes. Hence he has set out to eliminate the middleman: to write his own footnotes, and become famous through them, without waiting for a text to tie them to.

The first footnote in the books reads:. Because the weather and landscape was forever shifting and birds gave birth to new birds that birthed new birds ad infinitum , this passage is, historically, inaccurate. The main argument, however, remains unaffected. Footnote number 10 contains its own footnote, and so does that one, and so does that one.