1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Doing the Explaination Scenes Right

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Flying Geese, Nov 5, 2014.

    I am really excited to discuss this topic in particular with you guys!

    I am not quite sure what to call those scenes; the ones where there is a character who knows much about the world or how its mechanics work, and he/she explains it to the main character (and, of course, to the audience). And from here, everyone understands how things work.

    There is much to explain, but I don't want to bog down any part of the book with an infodump.

    I can't think of very many novel examples, but a scene from anime that come to mind is

    Naruto => Kakashi and Guy explain to Sakura how the Eight Inner Gates control the flow of Chakra
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Depends on where in the story you are revealing things. At the end of detective stories and thrillers writers often have a verbal reveal in the end. But when it comes to how the society works, or the reasons for the revolution, things along that line, it's often best to chuck the exposition that we are all tempted to write and reveal the world more slowly through more showing and less telling.

    Can she reveal one or two key things of great significance but not a whole infodump?
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, be careful about borrowing concepts from other media. For example, methods in film often do not work in written fiction.

    As for exposition, this is something I've struggled with in historical fiction, which typically requires a great deal of it. I found that bringing details out through dialogue not only tended to ratchet up word count, but tended to be clumsy. Over the course of editing (with helpful comments from an intrepid beta reader), I found that short summary paragraphs for scene setting worked well, and anything more descriptive tended to be best done with narrative through the POV of one of the characters. Characters and the story line come out best through scenes, and mine tend to be heavy with dialogue.

    I suggest you go back to some of your favorite books and review how exposition was handled in them. Then see how yours stack up.
     
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  4. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    I have been planning on writing as little about the world in one spot as possible, and then letting the plot develop more and then going back to see if it all connects well.

    How I have it now, is that a magician explains to the MC, who knows little about the world, but I am also making it clear that though the magician is wise (leaps and bounds ahead of the MC), he also is learning about the events of the plot that are unraveling.

    After writing the first draft of this scene, I realized that it was the most dialogue I had ever written in any one scene before. I want to make the scene go beyond a lecture, and have the reader imagine things as they are being explained.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a question of finding a natural way to give required information to the reader, and ONLY as required. Rather than have an entire scene that's devoted to explaining the world, I'd rather have the explanation broken into little parts as you go.

    But if you're going to have a scene, make sure there are other things going on as well.

    Have a skeptical character listening in and criticizing what another character is explaining. Have a character explaining it all while also dealing with a recalcitrant toddler and a drunk old man (or a drunk toddler and recalcitrant old man!). Have the explanation about dragons come as they're running away from a dragon! Whatever. Try not to have it JUST be two characters sitting there, one talking, one listening.

    I think one exception for this may come in the hardest of hard scifi, where, to my uneducated eye, there's a lot of what would be considered info-dumping in other genres. I think this is because hard scifi readers are reading primarily for the world-building, so they like having it all at once, but that's just a theory. I don't read that much hard scifi.

    For other genres - make it flow into the characters and the plot - they're the more important part of the story.
     
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  6. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Thanks, BayView, those are great ideas that I plan on trying
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe not the drunk toddler...
     
  8. karmazon
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    karmazon Member

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    Blake Snyder in his book "Save the Cat" writes about one way to do exposition scenes. He calls the technique "Pope in the pool" after some movie that had an exposition scene going on while the Pope was swimming in the Vatican pool. At its core the idea is to present the exposition in an interesting way, with interesting/unusual stuff going on in the background as opposed to straight up info dump.
     
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  9. Ashrynn
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    Ashrynn Active Member

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    Like Karmazon says, it's usually back to go with writing in an interesting way. Info dumps are rarely fun UNLESS you've been building up for it. And even then it's good to have some sort of huge scene behind it.

    If you're just trying to explain how something works then maybe the best idea is to have the characters explain it and then do that whole thing where someone dumbs it all down.
     
  10. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exposition.

    My favorite tip is to remember that this type of scene always has two people: the person revealing the information, and the person receiving the information. If the information goes on for too many paragraphs un-interrupted, then the reader will get bored, so I like to show why the two people care about the information.

    If the thing I'm expositing is supposed to be common knowledge in my world, then the speaker will need a pretty good reason to be talking about it to somebody that should also already know; my strategy is to not focus on the information, but focus on how the speaker has been affected by the information. Perhaps she's an aficionado/enthusiast/nerd in some specific field and doesn't like it when normal people display "obvious" misconceptions about said field? Perhaps his family has been struggling after some political decision and he gets into a fight with somebody who shows support for said decision?

    If the thing is not supposed to be common knowledge, then I try to show how surprised one or both parties are that the particular subject has come up.
     
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  11. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Mmmm. Great tips Simpson. I just might finish it today now that I have those tips
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whenever you possibly can, it's best to let the reader figure things out when you present them in context, rather than explaining them. For example:

    Joseph lifted a small brown pastry from the plate. "This is a fooble. It is difficult to make, and quite expensive because it requires a great deal of butter, which is rationed. Small children enjoy it."

    versus

    Jane dropped into her chair, and started unwrapping her scarf. "I haven't eaten a bite since last night; I've been--Oh, wow, foobles! Where did you get the butter?"

    Now, this doesn't cover all of the information that Joseph provided, but the missing bits can come later in the conversation, again in context rather than in the form of explanations.

    Edited to add: I provided a longer example in this post:

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/exposition-without-info-dumping.134787/#post-1274453
     
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  13. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    I'm sometimes amazed at how little explanation needs to be there if the right details are given. I often come back to a couple examples from Heinlein, as quoted in the Education section of this newsletter. Edit: I see this viewpoint agrees quite well with Chickenfreak.
    http://noblepencr.org/?p=887
     
  14. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Gooooooood advice. This reminds me of that bit of writing advice from Chuck Palahniuk that I always found helpful. If you unpack the information, just like that previous example, it tells the reader a lot more about your world, your story and what you want to convey, and does it in a way that's a lot more interesting.
     
  15. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    This has been an extremely helpful thread. I don't wanna bother anybody, but I plan to write up a good bit of story for my book this day. If anyone is interested in seeing what I've come up with (with your help) then just message me :)

    Cheers, everyone
     

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