The Exposition Coefficient

3 years ago | ElliottThomasStaude (Member)

Hello all, a prospective submitter here.
My writing centers on a science fantasy setting that is, in a word, holistic. In several words, it's extremely dense and probably alien to many readers. The first "book" of about a hundred and fifty pages will be available for consumption soon.
The line of questioning is this: is there any particularly recommended method for breaking down into digestible elements an environment which requires effectively nonstop exposition? Should exposition in a principally fictional setting be focused on one particular subject as a kind of maypole? Are there any rules of thumb for how much is too much for a standard reader to metabolize?
Topics of interest include such things as the overlap of certain deities' actions and influences, the legal circumstances by which the freezing point of water may be adjusted, social etiquette where it is appropriate or otherwise to undergo species-change operations, the mechanics of converting various genres of magic output to traditional forms of energy, standards of measuring dilation of time, and a plethora of other more involving matters.
Any insight of any kind is extremely appreciated.

If you've a head for holistic science fantasy, the Library may oblige:
If you've a dislike for lengthy names, I'm so sorry.

Read responses...


  1. Scott Scherr (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Hello, Elliott.

    I want to start by saying that I yield to those who have much more experience than I in world building, and there are some good ones who frequent this forum. I'm sure they'll have some excellent advice for you. But as a fellow storyteller, and a reader, I'm of the opinion that everything should serve the story first. Doesn't matter how complex your concepts are if your tale is buried beneath them. Too much exposition, especially clumped up at the beginning of a story, is like having to read someone explaining some fancy, new locomotive that's never been conceived of before. Rather than getting the damn several tons of machinery rolling, one might decide to describe it in detail--what it is, how it runs, who owns it, where did it come from... and so on... long before actually getting it started. Honestly, I'll lose interest very quickly in how the big, damn whatever operates if the story just sits there at the station while I'm forced to read about it, staring at endless pages of narrative until my eyes start to hurt. I say, get it moving down the tracks, tell your story, and explain as you go through the experiences of your massive train's passengers. That way, your story is gaining momentum while you explain what you need to through those who are living it and when it's relevant to the story. Just my two cents via this silly train analogy.

    Author of the apocalyptic series, Don't Feed The Dark.
  2. Sharkerbob (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Take this advice with a grain of salt because I know some people don't like it, but I'm one of those yahoos who enjoys reading Lore Articles as supplemental material to a story. I'm not sure how you've structured your story already, but you might consider including bonus articles between chapters or arcs that go more in depth on elements of your setting that might not come up in the story. Ideally, this would be information the reader wouldn't necessarily need to know to understand the basics of the world enough to a story, or might even be information that characters explain in-story later if the story needs it, but otherwise is a great way to get a lot of information about the world out there without slowing down the narrative.

  3. Thedude3445 (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    I'd also go with bonus supplemental material, maybe footnotes if you're brave enough. Obviously when there are items critical to understanding the characters/story you'll have to try and spell it out as best you can within the text, but some people really do like reading just about the world itself in texts outside the main story. As more of a movie lover, I prefer worldbuilding in stories to be as un-exposited as possible and as "visual" as possible, even in prose fiction, but I also really enjoy reading worldbuilding-centric exposition-only text too, when it comes to worlds as cool-sounding as yours.

    Sorry boss, but there's only two men I trust. One of them's me. The other's not you.


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