On Exposition And How To Go About It:

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Like many fantasy/science fiction writers, I suffer from the aggrivating problem of inventing entire worlds, then wondering how the hell I can convey even the basics of setting information to the reader. Does anyone have ways to Info Dump that're less awkward than making the opening chapter go along the lines of "And lo, Dardathrel smote the mighty Aldershot within the Swiggins-Month", or featuring the Encyclopedia Exposita?
2 RalphCrown15th Mar 2011 12:31:22 PM from Next Door to Nowhere
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One way is to concentrate on things that are not foreign to the reader. An elevator is an elevator, a despot is a despot, a city is a city. Once you ground the reader in familiar things, then you can bring in the elements that make your setting unique. If they're not crucial to the plot, they can wait.
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3 TeraChimera15th Mar 2011 12:38:52 PM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
You could maybe simply write it, with little bits of exposition here and there as needed. For example, The Hobbit gets going with just a little bit of background information about Bilbo and hobbits - about two and a half pages, and the half-page is describing Bilbo's house. Although the Rings of Power are important in the backstory, we don't hear about them until they become directly relevant, when Bilbo finds the Ring about a third of the way through. Cryptic Background References might work, too, except with a little less "cryptic".
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4 MrAHR15th Mar 2011 01:14:40 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I think Harry Potter has shown that explaining the inner mechanics of every last thing is not really needed. Just keep things consistent, and only explain things that the characters would not realistically know.

...I came up with all those government departments...a-and it's vitally important to know the colour of officials' robes is based on their level...
That is my problem too.

I solve this partly by having the two first-person characters being a Na´ve Newcomer My Country, Right or Wrong Hero-Worshipper who finds the need to marvel at everything of the Empire, except its bureaucracy, and a character who would better fit a Moe show that a political drama who finds the need to be awed at everything, from how a fief is run to the Empire's macroeconomic perspectives.
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7 MarkerMage17th Mar 2011 04:35:57 AM from My own little world
World Ends Oct 21, 2011

...I came up with all those government departments...a-and it's vitally important to know the colour of officials' robes is based on their level...

And lucky for you, I have an idea of how you can still do it.

Alice: Why'd they have to choose such an ugly color for the robes worn by ____?
Bob: It's because the color ____ was associated with ____ by the ____s due to ____.
Alice: Well what about the ____'s robes?
Bob: They're colored ____ because...

And there you have it. Just fill in the blanks and continue on, and you'll have yourself some exposition, along with characterizing Bob as being knowledgeable about history or whatever.

Also, there are people who don't pay that much attention to how their government is run. People usually call them Americans. Self deprecating humor aside, this type of person can provide you an opportunity to drop some exposition. Have a dumber character (or just one that doesn't care how the government works as long as it does) complaining about what the leader is doing, only for the character that knows how the government works to correct him/her on various things (mostly which department is responsible for which problems).
Thinking of ideas to use with a literary work that is meant to be WikiWalked through.
[up]Actually, that works pretty well; my comic relief duo are a pair of scholars who want to get into government but are good at everything except what bureaucrats are meant to be good at.
9 MrAHR17th Mar 2011 07:48:12 AM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
[up][up]...merph...I disagree. Yes, it is a way to give exposition, but it comes down to what's important and what's not. The fact is, they don't need to know why they wear X uniform, or stuff like that. Just present the pattern for what it is, and just let it be accepted for what it is. A history lesson is not needed for stuff like that.

Like, say you have some mystical wizard, and s/he has purple eyes with orange polka dots, which represents that s/he uses X type of magic and is from Y class. You don't need to say that. Show the eye color, have the wizard use the abilities and act like they are from a certain class, and make sure if you run into other wizards the eyes correspond accordingly, but you don't need to actually explain it.

edited 17th Mar '11 7:49:58 AM by MrAHR

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For my "Jykku Jetty" story, I have an Omniscient Narrator with a somewhat funny-sounding voice occasionally throwing in expositional facts about the immediate setting and/or characters. In fact, the narration somewhat resembles a general TMZ television article, partly because the world's Expy of TMZ, the Planet Eris Zone (or PEZ), rakes muck on everybody notable on the planet, especially its "most famous inhabitant, Jykku Jetty".
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I'm still fairly certain the best way to exposit is to show it—if not here, then somewhere or somewhen else.

If your character grew up with the experience of knowing all the governmental garbs, then staying in the present does not help you. Relate a story within the story concerning the first time that knowing the color of the garbs WAS very important to one character or another. It doesn't even have to be a flashback—it could be an anecdote, a mnemonic, a play they watched. Though the inclusion of any of these things themselves should, ideally, also be necessary to the plot.
I'm sure the cold hand of science will be able to overcome his magical powers——
What I always do is to have no direct exposition at all. I just have my characters speak without explaining anything whatsoever, and hope that the context will be good enough for the audience to sooner or later get it.
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Total posts: 12