1. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Is this good or gimmicky?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vagrant Tale, Jul 7, 2016.

    Hello everyone! I just got done with my reading for the night and I'm thinking about doing a little bit of writing after taking a short break, but I had a random thought earlier regarding exposition, and I was playing with the idea and wanted to see what you guys thought.

    I'm currently working on a sci-fi story, and some of the technology that some characters are using is...complex. One character, who has a 100% prosthetic body, uses what amounts to a sword with several gizmos and alternate functions, with it marketed towards a very specific group of buyers. What I'm concerned about is it seeming like I'm just pulling a Batman Utility Belt, and just adding functions as I go along to make it easier for this character to overcome situations.

    I realize that I could have some dialogue in there to demonstrate the functions before they are used, and the one I came up with was a "sales pitch" to the character that is going to be using the weapon, but if I do this 2-5 times in the story for each piece of tech, its going to become pretty obvious what I'm doing, and I think it will get repetitive. So I had an idea! Instead of doing sales pitches to the characters via dialogue, why not try a direct sales pitch to the reader?

    Like a magazine advertisement for the piece of tech, like its an actual product that's being sold to the reader directly. Maybe a simple illustration, or looking like a messy copy of a magazine page, with bullet points of the various features of the product. Like the type of ad you'd see for say an IPhone 6 in a magazine that highlights all of the features, and has that "sales spin" on it.

    What do you think? Is that a silly idea?
     
  2. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    I can see your dilemma - you don't want the belt to seem like a Deux Ex Machina or cop-out, but you also don't want to go on a huge long infodump that will bore the reader.

    What if one of your first scenes is actually where the MC buys the belt? He could go into the dealership, discuss its uses and limitations, its price, haggle over it, pay for it, etc. Maybe you could use the scene to be useful in other ways too.
     
  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I agree that you'd probably need to foreshadow the functions to avoid deus ex machina, so I'll hereby refer to this device as Chekhov's Swiss Army Knife. Does your character already have one at the start of the story, or does s/he acquire one during it?

    I quite like your idea of the magazine page, with a few provisos. It'll fit in fine if you have other illustrations and 'not normal prose' elements in your story, but if you don't it might be jarring or seem like as obvious an infodump as other options. I also think that this route would work best if the magazine page is included for a reason other than the ad itself (e.g. accompanying article), but the ad is 'incidentally' included (if you've mentioned that the MC either has a CSAK or is thinking of getting one, I think most readers will notice it).

    Another option could be having a commercial/infomercial that plays at some point (perhaps even several points). You could obscure the exposition by having the POV character bemoan the ad ("I wish my regular program would return", "This ad is so annoying: it's always on and I already have a CSAK", "What am I doing watching awful TV at 3am?", etc).

    You've probably already considered this, but you usually don't need to explain things in excruciating detail when foreshadowing. The first mention could be as rudimentary as 'CSAK: It slices! It dices!'. When you bring up those functions later they'll seem natural, and at that point you'll get the chance to demonstrate exactly how the CSAK slices and dices.
     
  4. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Thank you for the awesome response, there are so many great ideas you just gave me there. I'm really fond of the idea you had with the magazine article that just-so-happens to have the ad on it, since there's a LOT going on in the world in the setting that doesn't connect to the main plot, but gets mentioned in passing, so I think that'd be an ideal time to use some of that material, like a news article in a magazine, with an ad on one side. I really like the idea a whole lot.
     
  5. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Your biggest risk lies in the fact that all these abilities are harbored in one piece of equipment. That stretches credulity. Would it fit in the story to give the MC various pieces of equipment? I recently read Endymion and the MC had at least half a dozen futuristic devices that helped get through tough situations. There was little to no exposition about them and it wasn't necessary as they fit neatly in the futuristic world of the story.

    I have to admit that I wonder why a society that can produce an entire prosthetic body for a person uses a sword for anything beyond ceremony. I imagine there is a good reason, though.
     
  6. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Well, it doesn't have THAT many functions. It's just a sword that vibrates at a high frequency to cut things better, and has a magnet at the back of the blade (its 1-sided) that can attract incoming bullets. Its designed for prosthetic bodies so its ultra-heavy. The reason they are used is because on air-sealed environments, guns are illegal because 1 rogue shot could kill everyone on board. She also has 1 arm, and has no eyes, instead using a motion-tracker that has a limited range around her. All of these things combined make it the ideal weapon for her, in contrast to her sister who does use a gun.
     
  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Silly? To me? Yes. But! That doesn't mean it is a bad thing. Same with the deus ex machina quality of its utility.

    Personally, it depends the tone you want. Take Doctor Who, his Sonic Screwdriver is the freaking height of deus ex machina is far as I am concerned. But the dymanic of the show is not super serious, I would argue it is a very fun, silly show that gets dramitic for moments to change the flow. And that works for that.

    I would say, not sure how you plan to write the scene, it might be tricky to shift from his POV to an advertisemnt in our face. Bt if you can manage the transition, I don't see any reason why not. :)

    Does that help?
     
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  8. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Well, I may have multiple instances of technology that has multiple uses, vehicles that go a very high top speed, and other things. I guess this counts as exposition, huh?

    I guess what my original question was...for exposition about the abilities and usage of technology, would it be neat to turn it into a sales ad to give the exposition instead of weaving it into dialogue? There are multiple pieces of technology that will require exposition, and so I'd have to find some kind of way to deliver it differently each time.

    I just thought it was kind of a fun idea for delivering exposition in those specific instances, and just wanted to see what people thought of it.
     
  9. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose my original anser may have been a bit lacking in detail. Let me expand on both points.

    One being the sales pitch. Two being the concept of needing exposition.

    1. Yes, the sales pitch is something I see as a silly idea, but most fun ideas are in some way silly, I mean, non silly ideas are serious. So, if it fits dpeneds on the tone or mood you want. I personally don't think you need every exposition to be unique. Exposition is like speech tags. Sometimes it is cool to make them detailed and draw attention to them. Othertimes they are meant to blend into the background unnoticed, only being there to make sure we dont get lost.

    2. Well, as a concept, you have a lot of technology and a lot of that technology does multiple things. So, it is reasonable for that to be a clue that technology isn't always going to be taken at face value. It is okay to be subtle. :) Does that make sense? As long as you aren't giving peieces of tech new abilities everytime to save yourself, you should be fine. My favorite counter to deus ex machina is subtle clues.

    Like me give two examples.

    1. From my own work. A bad guy at one point completely gives himself away by dropping a name-sort of. See, the name is dropped early on, but the information neededfor that to be a give away isn't until like the half way point. So it is practically impossible for a reaer to notice on the first read but it just screams at them if they ever read it again. It is such a referencable clue to the fact that it was the idea from the start.

    2. In the movie Willy Wonka. The actor requested this scene where he came out limping at his first visual appearance, the moment was used as a gag as the character could walk fine. The point though, was it imbued instantly that this character may not be taken at face value, which was true. The moment is so subtle though, no one has to diretly tell the audience not to trust him. The scene does it all by itself without saying the words.

    Point being, your technology seems to hold a similar aspect in its design, as such I would not be against seeing you treat it in a similar way.

    Does that answer your question more throughly? :)
     
  10. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    I think I understand what you are saying, and I think I can integrate it into my answer, so yes!

    So my new plan is to proceed with exposition in the normal way, except plant seeds early on with each piece of tech. Then I'll also try the sales ads with them. The idea will be for the reader to actually laugh and say, "Oh yeah, they had that all along! I remember!" when the character uses it, such as turning on the magnet to misdirect bullets, or activating the cutting edge to slowly lower themselves with the blade down a tall concrete wall, or throw the blade to hold someone down with its sheer weight. The reader will have two instances where they heard about the weapon's ability to do such things, and will thus be able to enjoy the creativity of its use without feeling like the function was pulled out of thin air for that specific instance.
     
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