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  1. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    Need help with a science fiction introduction.

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by MrIntensity, Dec 8, 2016.

    Currently I'm in the process of writing my Science fiction novel, the specific genre would be a "Space Opera" (not the musical kind.) and I have only gone two chapters in. I have set out an entire timeline to help with specifics and to keep the references consistent. Not only that but I have produced countless illustrations to help me envision elements, characters, factions and other key features of my little universe whilst going as far as making a "map" to help me accurately reference the territories across my novel.

    However I cannot think of an adequate introduction to help readers make sense of the universe they are plunging into. I do not wish to overwhelm readers with information and detail that would make them even more lost as they read on, additionally, I don't want to be too obscure so they are confused on what or who is what.

    With the information I provided, what could you suggest that I do to give a powerful and interesting introduction? I was thinking of using the timeline just leaving out unimportant events or maybe using the illustrations?

    I will consider any suggestions you throw at me.
     
  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Start with what the MC cares about and why, then exposit more setting details as the story goes on:
     
  3. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Is there any way this could become a series of some kind?
    Could you write 3-5 paragraphs that could be put at the beginning of each book to get the reader knowing the basics?
     
  4. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    Hello again, I remember reading that but I cannot remember if it were from you or another. Thing is is that it is very difficult to do so especially with my setting. What I'm asking is a separate introduction prior to the first chapter as a kind of meta-introduction to everything and the current situation, and really its because I feel that it wont be enough having things being exposed to the reader through the MC along the story line, which is especially difficult when you have 4 MC's with very different outlooks on each situation. However I have taken the initiative to make exposition relevant to each MC's different exposition.
     
  5. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    I was thinking of making it a series, but I'm quite torn on how I could write those 3-5 paragraphs and still keep the information concise and give the reader a general understanding (The setting is quite complex, something I do not wish to change.).
     
  6. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Conventional wisdom says it's usually best to start with the main character, at the point that you want the story to begin. Develop your character and add details about them and the world they live in.

    If you would like to have a section of text dedicated to exposition, you can sum it all up in a prologue. I'm assuming this exposition has a lot to do with the history of your world. If so, it is possible to relay it well by just explaining the history creatively, making specific references to individuals but keeping the scope grand. You can even capture the reader for an entire expository chapter if you do it really well. There's a book I've read, The Last Crusade, which is a non-fiction historical account of Vasco da Gama. But the first chapter is entirely a grand scope about the history of Islam and its invasions of Europe, and finally the rise of small Portugal to meet the Muslim threat. It sums up the background of centuries of history very well and paints the background for Vasco's journey, the rest of which reads a lot like a typical fictional novel.

    So you could go that way.

    But if you want to make it concise, with just 3-5 paragraphs, I'm not sure there's any way to avoid the loss of complexity and details. I'm also not sure that a timeline or illustrations would be the best way to provide exposition before the novel even begins. Timelines in particular are somewhat technical and don't pull the reader in as well. The reason that the exposition-introduction in the Last Crusade pulled me in was that it flowed extremely well. It was a story, not of human characters, but of characters who were nations. That one chapter managed to discuss the seeds, rise, glory, and decay of an empire and the small upstarts in Europe that opposed it and got away with it. I think you would have difficulty provoking the same kind of emotional stimulation to readers by showing them a line with some dates. Illustrations and pictures might be more enticing- most people like a nice map, but they are not usually an information-heavy medium when it comes to exposition itself.

    Maybe consider a brief prologue detailing the few very key events and background details (eg, the four nations lived together in harmony... intro from Avatar the Last Airbender) and then pair that with a couple of exposition dense chapters in the first part of your story. Also keep in mind that if you are referencing different viewpoints (especially over the course of a series in which books are about different people), the characters themselves may believe different versions of events and find certain issues more important to themselves and talk about them more, which is something you may use to your advantage.
     
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  7. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    That was quite helpful, because if I envision my key factions and key historical events as more like characters and use them more for dramatic effect than pure exposition it could prove quite interesting to a potential reader, so much that I could go further than just a few paragraphs and maybe dedicate a couple pages or so? Not only that but I could really lay some heavy foundations so the opening isn't so abrupt.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As the general advice goes: "Resist the Urge the Explain."

    If the reason for the introduction is to provide the reader with background information, I'd scrap it. Very few people want to read that sort of thing. Many will skip it, and the problem is that, confident that you've set it all up in the introduction, you'll leave a lot of the explanation out of the story proper, which is where it belongs (to the extent you want to explain; many authors let their readers, who are smart, figure it out without much explanation, even in complicated worlds. See, e.g., Steven Erikson).
     
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  9. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    I'll keep that in mind.
     
  10. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    On any writing forum, references to Warhammer abound. I was thinking of the blurb at the beginning of WH40K books. A few paragraphs tell you all that you need to know about the history. Granted, it is a huge franchise with many writers and books, but has handled that part very well IMO.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but you could eliminate that blurb and the story still works fine. I read a number of WH40K novels before I ever bothered to read it :)
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. One of my favorite old-school franchises is a set of books by James White set in a hospital in space, the Sector General novels. Great reads, especially for anyone looking to create original aliens, since he goes into great detail as to why the alien is the way it is. Many of the patients in the stories are also "first contact" scenarios so the doctors of Sector General first need to figure out how the alien works before they try to fix what appears to be broken.

    One fly in the ointment of these books is three or four pages at the beginning of each novel that become almost cut & paste as the novels progress where White "sets the scene" for the reader. It's completely unnecessary, totally annoying to the reader who is already acquainted with the premiss of the franchise, and would be better served through the tell of the story.
     
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  13. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    I would take inspiration from tv series. I'd watch a bunch of my favorite series' pilot episodes and see how they introduced certain details. Star Trek introduced most of what you needed to know in a few iconic sentences spoken by William shatner, which I think is supposed to be part of his captains log. The log itself usually acts as the explaination for an episode as well.
     
  14. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    You could, but that blurb sells books.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe. I don't know that it does or doesn't. But it's quite different from that the OP is talking about, which seems to me to be an introduction that readers need to read in order to fully understand that story (i.e. the help "make sense of the universe"). Strikes me as a bad idea.
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've read books in series that start that way. It's always tedious. I skip those bits quite often.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but another situation where you could eliminate it and still follow the story just fine.
     
  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Which is precisely what I did after the second book. There comes a point where it feels like you're treating the reader like a dolt. People say don't judge a book by it's cover, but...

    I'm in the science fiction section of the bookstore, so... it's going to be science fiction.
    The title is Star Healer, and pretty much all the titles are dead on the nose like this one.
    The little space ship is bright white with red crosses on it. Obviously a future ambulance.

    Tada! Scene set before I even crack the cover. No need for those four pages.

    0ff8841cb9da3aa66d1f475f8066d5bd.jpg
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've never read any of them. I'll look for some. Do they have to be read in order?
     
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  20. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, actually, they do not have to be read in order. They are episodic, so to speak. The latter books tended to focus on one major medical conundrum/mystery/whathaveyou, but the earlier books usually had three or four patient stories working together as a loose novel. Again, he goes overboard at the beginning of each one to tell you this is this and that is that, so you'll be up to speed reading that bit just the once. :)

    Avoid The Galactic Gourmet. Everyone puts out a turd every so often. This was his. Knowing your tastes, look for the earlier ones.
     
  21. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    Whilst I think that after a few books where the explanations of light travelling slowly across lands gets tiresome, I fund Pratchett's Discworld novels to have brilliang prologues. Now, I'd agree with Steerpike here that the great thing about it is that you could remove it and the story wouldn't be confusing, but it delves into the history of the world he is building and sets the scene for some of the things that do happen in the stories. Magic, the edge of the world, etc..

    I don't believe that a prologue should contain information that is critical to your understanding of the story proper, but I once wrote a story called 'The Dark', and my prologue contained a character in chains, which served as the main motivator for all of the other characters in the book. I guess in many ways he was the plot, but each character didn't view it this way, and came to their own conclusions based on their impulses. Whenever I wrote something new, I would tweak my prologue and my individual POV's (contained 5 characters) so that the prologue enhanced the story, but I never let the story depend upon that. It's probably awfully written being from maybe eight years ago, but that mentality of separation of story has stuck with me.

    World-build by all means, but reading through your characters eyes will bring any world to life much more than narrative interference would.
     

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