I leave the reader completely in the dark on many things in my prologue and first couple chapters. You don't find out who or what Preyarans are or why Mat is in Rio Azúl fighting them or a lot of things then. I only start actually building the world, expositioning and elaborating on that stuff when it starts mattering aka when Admiral Mei Lin goes out in Chapter 3.
Personally, I think this is a very bad thing to do. Giving the reader no clue whatsoever as to what is going on can be a turn-off for people. Read over The Hobbit
again; the first three pages are nothing but exposition and establish the things you need
to understand the story, like a little bit of who Bilbo is. The first chapter also has plenty of exposition on the dwarves, but that's woven into the narrative.
Now, if by "exposition" you mean passages like, "This is Alex. Alex is an anthropologist from U of C, and he's not the brave or outgoing type. No, Alex blah de blah de blah.", then I agree with you. However, not all exposition is given in contextless dumps. The opening of the first Mass Effect
is pretty good with this; it has a brief opening scroll, but all that really says is, "It's the future, and something called mass effect is like super important." Everything else — politics, technology, biology, history — you learn from talking to people. Just because it's in dialogue and character-building instead of a dump doesn't make it not exposition. I once worked some minor exposition about segregation and magic into a conversation involving clothing stores, Hawaiian shirts, and Burger King.
To me, the primary purpose of exposition is to answer the questions, "Who are these people and why should I care?" If it's Chapter 3 and I'm not seeing any answers yet, I'll probably put the book down.
edited 8th Oct '12 5:40:30 PM by TeraChimera
"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak