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Handholding [Not That Kind of Handholding]

Discussion in 'Original Fiction Discussion' started by Utsane, Nov 21, 2019.

  1. Utsane

    Utsane Fourth Year

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    I find it hard to find the balance between explaining the mechanics or new traits of the world my story is taking place in, and letting the reader figure it out.

    I always start off thinking, "Well, they're probably not stupid, so if I can figure it out, then so can they."
    The issue with that is that I can't not know things about my universe, so me "figuring it out" is hardly the same as a reader doing so.

    This makes me want to ensure that things are explained, so that there's no confusion later on. But I don't like exposition, and I'm sure nobody else likes it either.

    How far into the story should I hold the reader's hand, if at all?
     
  2. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~

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    I think I would err on the side of leaving things a bit vague than overexposed. Too much exposition always comes off heavy-handed. Of course, it really depends on how crucial a given element is to understanding the story. Any fiction author has to write exposition sometimes, so when you do, examine if your writing style lends itself well to exposition and if it would be better in prose or in dialogue.

    Take Harry Potter. We here at DLP understand the magic system well, but that's rather thanks to a decade of reading canon, fanfic and Taure's headcanon documents---there wasn't much in terms of outright explanations in canon itself.

    Then compare HP to something like Sanderson's Stormlight Archive where exposition is abundant and lengthy. I personally find it unappealing and would steer towards the HP end of this scale (the examples I used being the extremes for the purpose of this post).

    I would much rather read a more in-media-res approach to worldbuilding (describe the phenomenon mostly as if the reader is familiar with it, but toss in a bit to help them understand, then toss in another bit when the phenomenon reoccurs in-story).
     
  3. Agayek

    Agayek Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

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    In my view, you want to always have the minimum amount of exposition. You bring up worldbuilding facts when they're directly relevant to what's going on on-screen, and then you share the bare minimum for the reader to understand the basics of same. The focus should always be kept on the events, the action as it were, so the pace doesn't get bogged down in irrelevant nonsense.
     
  4. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Moderator DLP Supporter

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    It all depends on your writing style. People here are going to post based on the bias of what they like and don't like. I generally don't mind certain things as long as its written well. Author's make their own rules in terms of phrasing, grammar and imagery, so if you can do it well, the no one will complain.

    Probably not something you should consume yourself with too much. If you like in-media-res, then write that way, if you don't, then maybe not write that way.
     
  5. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~

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    This, but with a caveat: introducing bits and pieces of random worldbuilding into your prose can be done well and helps enhance the world. It's the iceberg theory: you write in a small detail, which, to a curious reader, is an implication that there's more hidden behind that small detail. HP is full of this stuff.

    Of course, there is a critical mass where your prose becomes substantially composed of those random details. So, for super slick bonus points, incorporate those worldbuilding details into the scene somehow. They don't need to be strictly related to the scene wherein they appear, but perhaps they inform the reader about other relevant story elements. For example, in a classic setup of two people talking in a room about subject A, give a single detail of the room which suggests the interests/personality/job of one of the characters in the conversation.
     
  6. Vira

    Vira Death Eater

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    I agree with Zombie, depends on your style.

    I tend to only give out information if it's relevant to the scene. It took to the end of chapter three of my book to explain the biggest piece of world-building in my story that the series revolves around. It wasn't relevant in the first two chapters, or at least, it wasn't as important as what was happening to my protagonist in those moments.

    If you write in drafts, it's better to hand-hold and over-explain in your first draft. When you read it in preparation for your next draft, it will be much easier to cut them out if necessary, rather than having to add in explanations.