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  1. IVIilitarus

    IVIilitarus Member

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    Spread Background Exposition or Infodump the Readers?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by IVIilitarus, Oct 4, 2010.

    If I were to write a large scale war piece which required elaboration on the main factions' current territories, roles and a basic history as well as a quick tidbit on how the current warfighting method came to be.

    Thing is, all I really need is a rough overview of where the factions are, what they contain and what happened to cause the events currently happening. The story itself only takes place in one city, this is all backstory.


    Should I draw up a timeline and paste it near the beginning as in:

    In month y of year x, faction z did a and had impact b on area c.

    That sets everything up correctly, in order and shows a detailed progression of events but is a lot to digest at once and most people won't bother to remember it all.


    Or I could leave an author encyclopaedia at the end with all the needed details about factions, doctrine and such. This means readers go in blind and have nothing really to go on and have to leave the story and page through a load of expo to find info on what these guys do.


    The third option I can think of is having characters or events reflect on and mention previous happenings like people musing about how they got to this, explain a particular event which bought this design along and/or explain a faction's effects on the world through character opinions and chats.

    This doesn't really yank a reader away from whats occurring so they can look for details, but if they want to know something, there's no single place they can go to so they can find all they need on a particular subject.

    Ideas?
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    option 3.

    An infodumpic preamble is likely to make me re-shelve the book and a glossary at the end is going to go ignored and the vital materials contained within said glossary, which I will not read, will lead me to frustration because the data is missing from the story. Again, re-shelve.
     
  3. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Going agree entirely with Wreybies on this one use what is needed for the story in the story.

    Although I do like extra tidbits of information I prefer them to story enrichers rather than essential story items. In which case I would read the book.
     
  4. SashaMerideth

    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    If it is important to the story, include it at the point it is needed, and make it a part of the story, not an infodump.
     
  5. w176

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you want to write a story, or do you want to make a documentry of a fictional war? It sounds like you want to do the second and that the second part is most central for your interest. My advice to you is simple.

    Do that then. If that's you cup of tea. Do it. It might be awesome!

    But if you want to tell a story, you can't have the focus on that stuff. If someone expects a story and they get a documentary about a fictive war they be bored and the project will fail.
     
  6. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Option three, and even then, be stingy. Always give the reader less than he or she wants, and give it later rather than earlier. Anticipation is sweet torture.

    Satisfaction is release, and you do not want to release the reader. Even at the end, leave the reader wanting more. Get the reader aching for a sequel.
     
  7. art

    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Infodump

    The clue is in the name.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. arron89

    arron89 Banned

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    There's nothing wrong with revealing the history through exposition so long as it is relevant to the story. If your novel is about a war, I wouldn't consider a history of events that brought about that war to be unnecessary (in fact, the opposite is probably true). I think info dumps are misunderstood by a lot of people; actually, things like what you are describing occur very often in fiction, and are perfectly readable. The only thing to keep in mind is that it all has to be made relevant to the story so that it is a seamless part of it; it shouldn't interrupt the story, but be a natural extension of it. That said, bear in mind what Cog said and be mindful of how much you reveal and when.
     
  9. IVIilitarus

    IVIilitarus Member

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    I've read more than one horrific infodump. The worst was in one of the Twilight novels. That's when I started skipping pages. I know exactly what'll go wrong if I drag the reader out of the story.

    What would you suggest I fit into the story and when?

    We've got:

    Faction territories.

    Should I make vague references like 'most of continental Asia' or be precise, 'halted at Kiev'. Kiev's rather important. The attackers were stopped there, that's why they rediverted a lot of their forces to the location the story takes place in.


    Workings of weapons.

    'slugs accelerated at high speed' or be more precise about it once when introducing a weapon, 'A 9 mm, 5 gram slug punched at over 800km/s'. These weapons show up a lot. I'll describe the receiving end either way, so readers can have the question of 'What did it do?' answered.


    Battle doctrine.

    Battles are fought in an unusual way here. How would I describe general battle doctrine? 'X is deployed first, making room for y's abilities and continuing the war from the site with y's z.' or could a description from a character's point of view watching it unfold work better? This is written entirely in 3rd person, with a sort of narrator delving into inner workings and complex things. Ordinary soldiers don't think as much about complex measurements in the heat of battle.


    Mechs.

    I have a realism thing going here and I want to integrate mechs into it. I want to emphasise their usefulness in this environment. In my story, they'll probably have a larger part than air force and navy combined.

    Does anybody have tips for describing realistic walkers? Nothing taller than 2.5 storeys. They've been in use for some time, so they're not that new. This question is optional, if someone could point me at a guide or a few articles, that'd be awesome but, you don't really need to deal with this question.


    Thanks a lot for that feedback.

    I definitely won't roll with infodump. Timelines at the beginning turn me off, too. That's why I was uncertain. Paolini did an author encyclopaedia and I don't like his books any more than if he went without. I just need tips on how to sprinkle info along.
     
  10. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I infodump all over my first draft - it helps me know the story and characters better, understand the locations and what is going on. For me my infodumps are essential for character development. I take them out later when I know what I need and what I don't. I also don't know what I will need until the story is completed.
     
  11. arron89

    arron89 Banned

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    I actually suggest reading World War Z by Max Brooks. The book is a history of a war (against zombies) as recounted by various witnesses to it. It will show you how you can include (at times lengthy) exposition and tell a good story because of (rather than in spite of) it.

    Again, infodump=/=exposition. You can simply have the narrator recount the history, describe the tech and battle scenarios. If you do it all out of the context of the story, and include excessive or irrelevant details, that is when it becomes an infodump. Otherwise I see no reason it would be a problem.
     
  12. wavodavo

    wavodavo Member

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    IVIilitarius, I’m for filtering all the exposition in as you go.

    I understand from other of your postings that your characters don’t really stick around long—mostly just there to die “Here one in cowboy boots, there’s one spilling a wallet full of pictures.” The good thing about that entire “Sir! I have a message from H (kak)” is you have a realistic reason to have the putative veteran of the moment explaining various situations to the replacements. It can be done fairly briefly and maybe as a running conversation.

    As for things like mechs, you can start with the cliché and work toward your own voice. Just treat ‘em like junk and show the soldiers perennial lament that they are always under supplied and outgunned. “Christ a Frackin Crutch, Sarge! These mechs were new before I was born! That one doesn’t even have armor over the fuel tank and you calling it the good one!” or “Look, Squints, that BT6 is only makin’ 12 meters a second out there which was fast 20 YEARS AGO!”

    For factions, you can always have a know-it-all sorting things out. Someone can bring in a prisoner and claim it is from one faction and the know-it-all can pipe in and say it is from some other faction because….. And you can sprinkle snippets about the factions along with the action. “The drago’s are mountain people, right? Well, they sure ain’t worth beans down here in this swamp.”
     
  13. IVIilitarus

    IVIilitarus Member

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    Yeh-huh...

    Thanks a lot, all! Got a good idea of what to move onto.
     
  14. pumpkin

    pumpkin New Member

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    This. World War Z is amazing. Arguably one of, if not THE best zombie fiction on the market.

    I personally prefer information to be disseminated over the course of the novel. Like if the characters visit a particular area that was the scene of a great battle then some background information could be given then, and more at a later date. Of course an appendix or timeline never hurts... if people ignore it at the back then so be it, I personally find it helps. And maps are good too IMO.
     

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