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I'm good with footnotes for humour, but otherwise I don't want something that pulls me out of the story. The best stories for me are the ones that immerse me fully in them. One thing I don't like about the Malazan reading experience is I have to keep flicking to the end to find out what magic domain they're talking about this time. It usually matters to whatever's happening, so you can't just breeze by it and hope for the best.

Straker said:
I'm currently debating whether to buy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and one of the things weighing against it is the fact that it's heavily footnoted.
At first I found the footnotes in this book maddening, both because it knocks you out of the story and because it involves some serious screen-tapping, but all of a sudden the sense of humour clicked for me and I was good with them. It's a very dry, understated British kind of humour, so you'd need to give it a test, but it started to work for me within the Kindle sample. Time-poor as I am it took me a month to read it, but I'm very glad I did.

Ben Dobson said:
One thing I have occasionally liked and tried to use myself a few times is short excerpts from made up in-world books, placed at the beginning of chapters like in Robin Hobb's Farseer Saga, or even in an appendix or such. It has to fit with the nature of the story being told, but I find it more engaging than when the author just sort of dumps a bunch of info in the back of the book.
Catherine Fisher does these start of chapter notes very well in Incarceron, giving you information on the world and the important background to it, but she does it in a very stylised way, like a fairy tale or myth told by firelight. Neal Asher has his "From How It Is by Gordon" notes in his Polity books, and uses them to step you through the entire fearsome food chain of the planet Spatterjay in his Spatterjay books. The food chain notes make for a good little sub-story of their own.

The start of a chapter is a good place for that sort of thing. You've already paused, so it isn't disrupting the flow of a scene.
 
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