1. E.Anderson
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    E.Anderson Member

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    When Should I Start Talking About My World?--Please and Thank You

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by E.Anderson, May 11, 2016.

    I have yet, another conundrum that needs solving! After spending a large period of my time organizing the structure of my story, I finally decided to get started on writing the dang thing. But after almost three thousand words...I've reached a dilemma. You see my tale has a strong fantasy setting yet, it is similar to the real world (hopefully that makes sense to someone out there) and there is a lot of things that need to be mentioned about the world. But there is so much to talk about that, I'm not sure where I should start!!!
    Should I start the story with a full introduction of the world and explain all of its rules or...Should I offer small pieces of information about the world as the story goes? Or perhaps, there's a way balance it? I dunno! I'm stuck! So that's my question...When should I start talking about the world my character live in?! Say it all in the beginning? Or just a little? Or maybe a little more than "just a little"? Or should I explain the world in the middle?! I don't know!!! I need help!!!


    --Please and Thank You!!!
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I suggest not starting by explaining the world and all of its rules. That's a good way to get a lot of readers (including me) to put the book down and move on to something else. I'd open with character and story and drop in significant bits of lore about the world as necessary, and as it can be done in a natural way, without infodumping. Also, keep in mind that the reader doesn't need to know every detail of the world that you know.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Our world would look weird to aliens but to us everything is taken for granted. So unless something effects us we wouldn't notice it or mention it. The only way of trying to explain everything in a burst is if you're new to the world - ala Dorothy in Oz and then you could make comparisons.
    Other than that - I'd keep it simple. If it effects your characters mention it and then find downtime - characters getting introspective or thinking - to play catch up and fill in some of the details. As long as you choose the right descriptions and modifiers your readers shouldn't get too lost.
    For instance if you'd never heard the term light sabre before and some sci-fi novel mentioned it, it might halt a reader for a moment until the fight began and they'd get clued in that it was some sort of laser sword.
     
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  4. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean like an Urban Fantasy? I just started one too ;)

    I always recommend John Scalzi's sci-fi novel Old Man's War as The Book on how to do world-building exposition:

    In Chapter 2, we learn that there was a nuclear war between America and India that America won.

    The reason we learn this is because an American is furious that India gets first crack at sending colonists to other planets. His son died in the war, and now he's furious that the only way for Americans like him to be allowed into the space colonization program is to join as soldiers who are expected to die protecting the Indians instead of being allowed to start their own American settlements.

    The protagonist points out that more of Indian land has been poisoned by nuclear fallout than American land has been, but then the angry guy turns that around: "Exactly! We won the war, shouldn't that count for something?"

    (The protagonist does not hold a very high opinion of this man's belief "Indians killed Americans so America should get special treatment, but Americans also killed Indians so America should still get special treatment")
    Exposition has two to three components: 1) the information itself, 2) the person who is revealing the information, and if the information is being shared through dialogue instead of through internal monologue, then 3) the person who is receiving and responding to the information. "Info-dump" isn't about how long the exposition goes on, it's about the information being exposited without showing how the characters are affected by the information in question.

    Mystery novels can arguably be described as nothing but exposition, but the exposition is still interesting when the character's responses to the information is interesting.

    What might your character be experiencing that would prompt him to think/speak about some piece of world-building that you wish to exposit?
     
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  5. Andrew Rosemel
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    Andrew Rosemel Member

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    I personally think you should offer small pieces of information as the story progresses. If you reveal everything that makes your Fantasy world amazing in the first few chapters, there will be nothing interesting left to read. Books are ten times more interesting when you learn new things about the world and the characters until the very last chapter. When characters tend to explain a lot of information at the beginning of a story, it feels like just that, a story. Smoothly translating little bits of information as the story progresses is a lot more authentic for me. I hope this helps somewhat!
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely not. You want to avoid explaining.

    You don't explain that the Chairman of Gadgets is important and powerful and just plain mean. Instead, you have a scene of a character frantically searching his wardrobe for something good enough to wear to meet the Chairman, or calling in sick when he learns that the Chairman is going to visit his workplace, or heading for the unemployment office because he was at his workplace and he slurped his tea and offended the Chairman's delicate shell-like ears.

    You don't explain that the Garden of Widgets is a very selective and difficult school for toddlers. Instead, you have a character preparing the legal defense for the parents who tried to bribe the admissions committee.

    Every scene can be used to tack on little facts that support informing the reader. The scene with the character preparing the legal defense was mainly about having someone working late into the night so that they can be attacked by the Basement Monster. But the legal defense is what they're working on. The scene about the person heading for the unemployment office is about that person being desperate enough to accept a crazy opportunity to make money. But they're going there because of the Chairman. And so on.
     
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  7. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    There's multiple ways to address this situation.
    1) You can use a character's upheaval into a situation as a way to describe the newer environment. X character is teleported to a faraway land which is completely different from the one which X character was originally from. The state of shock and confusion is a period of defining character building emotions emitted from your M.C. or S.C.
    2) Your world involves a complex system that requires explaining to be understood. The basis could be magical, scientific, etc.. You may begin your story with your characters at an early age and progress forward as your series develops. Perhaps they're in a school, or something of a similar nature, so you proceed to introduce your system through a lecture or speech earlier on in your story.
    3) Your character has lost most if his/her memories and gradually gains them back throughout the story. He/she could have flashbacks or have memories seen through a projection while never actually being regained. Perhaps his/her memories are simply recollected through an emissary, which gives the reader doubts about the legitimacy of any such statements.
    4) A million other things.

    All up to you, you can do it however you like. Look at some books you've really been interested in and compare how they've done to others you've also liked. My biggest piece of advice would not to make it feel too rushed and cramped together though. If it becomes a cluster...star, then people are going to lose interest fast. You can explain how great your magical system is and the complexity designed with years of hard work and thought, but just make sure people don't feel like it takes away from your story.

    Since you're doing a Fantasy story I would suggest a brief explanation of the basics earlier on. Maybe use the introduction of a character to tie in a little bit more and then space it out as the plot unfolds.

    Say X Kingdom is at war with Z Kingdom.
    M.C. = X, S.C. = Z (main/support)
    M.C. meets S.C. in woods. M.C. notices S.C. first and has a little inner monologue about the rivalry between the two kingdoms. Then S.C. notices M.C. so monologue is cut short before becoming monotonous.
     
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  8. E.Anderson
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    E.Anderson Member

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    Thank you all...I'm just going to offer bits of valuable information as my story goes...All advice helped out a lot.
     
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  9. Zadocfish
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    Zadocfish New Member

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    I have a weird fantasy setting, but I kind of don't point to its rules much in the story. I started out hinting at the nature of the setting in a little prologue short story. That's a good option; instead of an exposition dump, make a short story that sort of establishes the setting. That way, the reader gets two perspectives on the world, on top of giving them more time to get used to the setting before moving on to the real story.
     

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