Running Commentary in a Book
Recently, I discussed why books cannot have deleted material:
In writing that blog, it occurred to me that there is another entertainment aspect present in movies but not in books. Nearly all modern movie DVDs contain options to listen to running commentary by the directors, stars, or producers. Sometimes “Movie DJ’s” talk about the move during commercial breaks. On YouTube, “reaction” videos are viral. An “influencer” (popular person) watches a video and comments on the content. Running commentary is now a widely accepted activity, and viewers enjoy this entertainment addition because it expands the original work and provides valuable insight. However, an author would never place running commentary text within their work.
Wait a moment. Books have footnotes, readers, guides, and introductions. This text fills the same entertainment void. Right? Well, no, because these additions are for clarity and not entertainment. Authors occasionally have additions and explanations to help the reader with core material. Typically, readers see these extra sentences in textbooks, but we would never see such additional material in a romance, spy, western, or mystery book. How about an audiobook? Nope.
I find it amusing that such a simple addition would never be done. I suppose this is because if a comment is important enough, the author should be able to “write it in.” For example, I got this blog idea while writing another blog. That last sentence could be considered running commentary, but it is actually “additional information.” Alright, we can be flexible. Let’s insert some running commentary!
“In the above blog paragraph, you read all about my struggles to get my point across. What a disaster! I probably should have done a blog about science fiction or something.”
Wow, that sentence was utterly out of place, yet there is some insight (value) in it. There is also some entertainment value (comic relief) inside knowledge and perspective. But is this extra sentence really considered running commentary? It meets the criteria, but the reader cannot turn off the sentence.
This sentence was easy to add, and I could have made it better. How about a red font? At the very least, the audiobook could have some colorful anecdotes by the person providing the voice. If the author was reading, they could go into long stories about writing the book. But… That would never be done. The closest thing in the book writing world is an interview with the author, which would not be in line with the book text.
Why are books so rigid? Why are they rectangular and not square? A square book would probably use less paper. How about a standard size? In looking at my meager bookshelf, I see at least ten different sizes. Yet, no running commentary.
“Hey, readers. I got a bit off-topic there. Sorry, I tend to ramble. Remember from above? Yeah, it is possible to have running commentary. I did it twice! Proof positive.”
One is tempted to say, “Books have never had running commentary and never will. It is tradition. Don’t rock the boat!” So it is as physics governs books. F=MA, D=2*Pi, V=IR, E=MC^2, and books do not have running commentary. This means we are robots who follow a rigid program that cannot be changed. Failure to comply = no sales! Exterminate, exterminate!
Do I want to write books with running commentary? It would be wonderful to have this freedom, but every freedom has pitfalls. What is the standard commentary format? First-person or third? Is it taboo to discuss other books or have advertisements in book running commentary? What If the book is for kids, but the author swears like a sailor?
“Yeah, you probably hate it when I get all informal. Like we are friends or something. You probably prefer the Oxford Standard running commentary format. Want white teeth? Use Crest toothpaste!”
Well, let’s invent a format to fill this entertainment void. From now on, books can have running commentary as footnotes. Not going to happen. How about in a different chapter? Umm, no. In the “about the author” section? Nope.
Books will never have running commentary, and I do not understand why there is so much resistance to a slightly improved format. However, it would be fun to experiment with running comments, and perhaps in future blogs, I will insert a few “observations from the author.” Well, this seems like an excellent place to end this blog.
Credits
Writing: Bill Conrad
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Test Audience: Bill Conrad
“Great, the blog ended on a high note, and I am going to conclude my running comments as the credits roll. Wow, I really had a fun time writing this blog. Hey, readers, stay tuned for more blogs and look for running comments. Maybe I am on to something. Thanks for all your support! I hope to add running comments in future blogs.”

You’re the best -Bill
January 13, 2022
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