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Writer's Block:
Lack Of Exposition
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Lack Of Exposition:

I have a problem. In the story I'm working on, the plot is never explained, because there is no one to explain it.

The backstory is extremely important, but the reader will only know the version of one character, who is an Unreliable Narrator. Almost all the important plot points in this version are wrong. This is never explained- there are only some hints that the story is basically a lie. There are only two other characters who know what really happened. The first doesn't have a reason to tell the protagonists (and the reader) what really happened, and is killed before he is able anyway. The second is actually the Big Bad, and similarly will never explain the truth.

Also, another problem is that the plot is based around ďspiritsĒ, at topic that most people in-universe know very little of. Those who know the most are the two characters mentioned above, and, again, will not talk about it. The only one who truly understands it is the Big Bad. As I predict it, the reader will never be told the truth, and will only be given some vague hints. However, this means that some things in the story are not going to make sense, and not only in a Mind Screw way. Iím afraid that many readers will just assume that some events create massive plot holes, and that the overall plot will never make sense to them.

I normally donít care about these things at all, but Iím wondering if this goes too far. But there is no way I can think of to explain the plot. At least, no way that I find preferable than just leaving the story incomprehensible. (I canít use the POV of someone who knows whatís happening, for example.)

Any ideas?

 2 A H R, Fri, 24th Sep '10 11:19:07 AM from Crevice of your Mind
Resistance is Futile
You can go the prologue route, or you can have one of those...dagnabbit word...framing devices, yeah that can start with maybe some kid finding some old book of information or whatever fits your story.

My advice?

Read sci fi. A lot of it.

Nothing hard, like Verne. Try out Asimov's Caves Of Steel. It is very good at name dropping futuristic devices in such a way that you can almost understand what they are used for without elaboration.

Read fantasy that takes place in fake foreign cultures and stuff as well. See how they handle it.
Also known as Katz
No prologue! Giving away everything right at the beginning is not the answer!

An epilogue is a possibility, actually. Or the ever-popular chapter-beginning excerpts from another source. Either way it can be something of which the POV character is entirely ignorant. But you really should just get someone else to read it and tell you if any more exposition is necessary: as long as you drop enough hints that it's clear to the reader that the POV character is wrong, it may be completely fine to leave the reader confused and unsure what's going on.

 4 A H R, Fri, 24th Sep '10 1:07:42 PM from Crevice of your Mind
Resistance is Futile
Prologues are not all bad, they just need to be done well. It doesn't need to be info dumping, just scene setting.
Space hobo
Mystery is your friend, it will keep the reader hooked and harboring for a conclusion. Make sure to explain just about enough without revealing anything important. An example would be a short explanation of a power/technology/sharksuspendedbyballoons in order to clear that out of the way and get on to the story. Another way is to place a backstory, if not in the begining, somewhere after a few chapters/episodes that explains what is going on prior to the moment. And remember that Tropes Are Tools. Excesive exposition is bad, yeah, but lack of it is just as bad.

edited 24th Sep '10 1:27:03 PM by heartlessmushroom

 6 Feo Takahari, Fri, 24th Sep '10 2:55:34 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Potentially a stupid question, but how much do you need to have the unreliable character narrating? Third-person omniscient narration could be your way out here.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
AHR: A prolouge isn't an option. It would be impossible to write one without spoiling half the plot. And a Framing Device is impossible too. (I'll probably check Caves Of Steel though, thanks for letting me know.)

jewelleddragon: I'm not sure how the story is going to end, but I'm pretty sure an epilouge wouldn't work. I hadn't thought of excerpts, actually. It's interesting, but I find it a bit pretentious to start each chapter with excerpts that I found while randomly searching for works with a similar theme. Also, I doubt I would find anything like that.

I know that asking someone to read the story is the best solution, but the thing is, I just started actually writing it. I thought it's best to deal with this problem before I'm too far into it.

heartlessmushroom: That's more or less what I'm trying to do. The problem is that I can't explain most things, because no one knows how they work.

Feo Takahari: An omniscient narration isn't used because it would spoil much of the plot. It's what the prolouge would be.

 8 A H R, Sat, 25th Sep '10 10:39:40 AM from Crevice of your Mind
Resistance is Futile
Kay ^_^. I read that book a couple of years ago, so my view of it might be slightly rose tinted.
 9 Feo Takahari, Sat, 25th Sep '10 8:38:58 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
^^ Actually, it's fairly common for an all-knowing narrator to not be all-telling. Keep some information in reserve for twists.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
Actually, the problem isn't that an omniscient narrator would say everything. The problem is that, if I want the scene to clear some things for the reader, I have to spoil much. If it ends up just another part with vague forshadowing it's not worth doing it at all.

(Sorry for the delay. You can blame school for that.)

"I hadn't thought of excerpts, actually. It's interesting, but I find it a bit pretentious to start each chapter with excerpts that I found while randomly searching for works with a similar theme."

No, that's not what that means. Don't take excerpts of actual books, take excerpts of books etc existing in your world that help illuminate what's going on.
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
 12 Madrugada, Fri, 1st Oct '10 6:22:34 AM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
Delean, unless I'm completely misunderstanding, what you are basically saying is "I have this story, and I'm going to write it, but I won't actually tell the reader the story. I'll tell him this other story that's about not telling the story, instead. How do I do this so that he knows there's a story I'm not telling, without getting mad at me?"

edited 1st Oct '10 6:23:29 AM by Madrugada

'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
Really? I'm pretty sure all the excerpts I've read are from actual books. Admittedly, they all were at the start of each book, not chapter.

Still, it doesn't help me at all. The problem is that the Big Bad is the only one to ever have understood what's going on. Most people have no idea. A few of them have some vague theories, which are im most cases completely wrong.

Lurker
"A few of them have some vague theories, which are im most cases completely wrong."

You could assume that Viewers Are Geniuses, add excerpts from the most plausible theories in the start of each chapter and let your readers try and figure it out themselves.
"Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane"
^Good idea. On second thought, excerpts might actually work. I'll try them out.

Thanks a lot, everyone.

Also known as Katz
Have a look at the Foundation books or Anathem for examples of excerpts from fictional books.

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Total posts: 16
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