Information Log (or, what should I do with way too much exposition...?)

The current serial I'm working on (debuting next Wednesday) is a sci-fi, with a lot of exposition/backstory involved in the universe. Is it a good idea to release an information log with some stuff that's common knowledge in their universe, and add to it as I go, or should I just let the readers pick it up as the story progresses? Because there's a lot of information to keep track of, and I, for one, can't always keep track of it all myself, and it's nice to have the lore readily available. For example: Final Fantasy XIII (which is actually what gave me this idea). I would stop playing it for a couple weeks, and then, when I picked it up again and started playing it, I would think, "Wait... What's a fal'Cie/l'Cie/Cie'th?" However, I was able to check the Datalog, and then go on my merry way. However, I could very well be the only person like that.

Any thoughts on what to do?


Overall, I'd say that's a very good idea, but I'd also advise against letting it take the place of providing exposition in the actual text. Reading the info log shouldn't be a requirement in order to understand the story, I think. It should be there to enrich and/or refresh the experience for the reader and/or yourself.


I'm making similar additions at the moment in my own serial. Created a map and a chart for the categories of superpowers so far. Next thing is a Characters page, as the cast has already grown pretty large.


I don't see a problem with supplementary materials, lots of sites have cast lists, classifications, galleries and the like. Create an encyclopedia to keep track of the universe for yourself, and then put it on the site as a whole or in tantalizing tidbits (depends if it would cause spoilers).


Exposition in stories is usually boring, and works best weaved into dialogue between characters if it has to happen at all. Think Obi-Wan explaining the Force to Luke, but aliens are just on screen and treated like people, not zoo exhibits with explanations.


Thanks for your suggestions. I would never leave the information out of the actual text, but if there's some piece of history mentioned, and then becomes relevant thirty chapter later, it's easier to just go to another web page and check there rather than search through previous chapters, because, no matter what, that's a chore if you don't know exactly where you're looking.


Let's see...


You should be able to naturally insert the key exposition into the story, and if it's critical stuff, it'll find its way into the story on its own.


Techniques you can use -


* The newcomer (obvious, a bit cliche, but a goodie) - bringing someone new into the world/area/culture/whatever, and they don't understand things, so these things can be explained to them. ("Welcome to Grigor's Eyeless, lad. Do you know who we are? No? Not a surprise. The Three Dukes don't want our merry little band to be public knowledge. Sometimes the military needs to do things in the shadows, you se...)


* The argument - people restate the obvious in an argument, and this both sheds light on characters/conflict (underlying or otherwise) and allows you to reinforce details. ("Good god, you're not even sorry! Your plague wiped out an entire planet, Pall! You got lazy, you rushed, pushed things through trials, and five and three-quarter billion people died! You almost started a war, and you did give the corporations an excuse to push their automated armies forward. Look where that got us!")


* Language, titles - Changing the language and the things people emphasize can highlight key aspects of the setting. ("Hail, Lady Vreya, shieldbearer, cupbearer, slayer of ten giants, indomitable. Hail, Bors, husband of Vreya, son of Elsie. Let us get down to business.")


* Depictions, descriptions. The stuff that recurs in the setting can paint a picture. (The men and women all wore the same colors. Gray, white, brown and black. There were no accessories, and there was no ornamentation or style in their hair or fashion. Even the gardens were devoid of vibrancy, only brown earth and green leaves. When I looked to the faces of the townspeople, hoping to see the color of their eyes or a smile, they looked only to the ground.)


I got that I should insert it all into the story. I'm talking about putting in stuff that's, a.) common knowledge and going to be mentioned in a couple chapters, or b.) stuff the characters have found out about through their adventures. I will definitely have to put it all in, but a lot of the plot ties back into the things that happened in the past, that may be mentioned in passing, and then, thirty chapters later, become very important, because that's happened when I was reading books before; I would read it, and something important would be mentioned that wasn't relevant at all, but then, 100 pages past that, they would start talking about it, and I would have no idea what they were talking about, even though they had already explained it; then, I would have to go back through the entire book just to figure out what is going on. It would be easier if all of the information was stored in a special web page specifically for remembering stuff. I want to do this partially because, one of the first conversations the two sets of characters have (two duos who work together) isn't going to seem relevant at all, but I want to use it in about three arcs to form the basis of an entire plotline.


Hm. Alex - the part where something "now" relates to a bit long time ago can be handled a little differently. The nice thing about the web to serialize is that instead of creating an entry that might not be useful until months down the road is that you can simply insert a url from a character name or phrase and go back to that relevant page. Or in your notes for that specific update, you can remind the reader where something appeared.


Also you're using wordpress so you could (instead of making new pages) use a tag/category system to help people flag certain things/plotlines etc. I used one (internally/hidden) to keep track of specific characters.


Character summaries also help once in a while if you plan to use a GRRM type narrative structure.


THat said - you don't want to get stuck in a situation where you are spending hours doing the backend of "supporting content" if it eats up your time for writing. I think you're trying to serve two purposes right now --one for yourself and one for readers. Those aren't necessarily going to be the same kinds of pages or notes and I think what's more important now is the system for yourself.