Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mr. Exposition

Unexpected occurrence in writing my second book, numero dos: exposition.

Not something I'd thought about, really. I've had dozens of abandoned projects, all fresh starts. Having to fill in a reader with something they may or may not already know is a new thing I have to deal with. One of the downsides of always burning things down and starting completely from scratch is that you never have to worry about completion or, heaven forbid, continuing onwards. I suspect this is one of the many reasons why my last book went way off-topic in Act II--I'm simply not used to that middle stretch where you have to keep going after the initial sprint.

Even though the new book is the sequel to my short story, Spirals and Triangles, I have to assume that some or almost all of the readers will be unfamiliar with the setting and the characters. I also have to accommodate for the fact that some of them (and by "some" I mean "probably just me") will have already read the short story.

So I get to do exposition, a lot of it, during the opening chapter or two.

I have to wonder how experienced authors, ones who have dozens of books out, some of which are in series form, deal with the tedium. Someone like Charles Stross or maybe a Charlaine Harris, or whoever, who don't always have the luxury of readers who pick up a book at the beginning of the series, deal. It's a given that in, say, mass market fantasy, that you don't just jump in halfway through. Nobody expects exposition from the middle volume of the Wheel of Time. But something like the Laundry novels where they're deliberately written so you can jump in anywhere, but which are still sequential?

That's gotta to be annoying after the fifth or six one.

I get to explain all over again what the deal is with, say, the Llerg. There's a certain level of angst there, because I go back, reference the first story, see how awesome the first description was. I'm tempted to just copy and paste the text and hope nobody will notice.

But that's lazy. More importantly, it denies me the chance to try to one-up myself.

Still, there's only so many ways to describe something before you begin to feel like a long-term couple trying to revive their sex life. "Can I talk about the kitchen? What if I talk about a French maid outfit? Ooh la la."

It's going well, though. I'm starting to get the chemistry between the characters back. With a full novel ahead of me, I can really explore the setting quite a bit more than I could in a six thousand word story. There's some fun places I want to go with it. I'm in that honeymoon stage where I'm constantly jotting down gags to put in.

There's a particularly awesome one involving chalk outlines that I came up with last night while hanging out with friends. Since I don't really talk about my writing anywhere except here, I didn't bother to tell them why I suddenly cackled and then tapped something into my phone.

They're probably used to it. As someone who writes all the time, I have voices in my head and I do answer them occasionally.

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