Nooks, Crannies, and Exposition
First of all, about last night’s (this morning’s feverishly happy post), yay! Or possibly huzzah. Getting to where I was last night was a feat of a few hours. I spent a lot of time pressing to get to that point, and while I know I need to go back and pick apart a couple chapters in specific, the climax of the novel itself is really strong. At least I feel it is, because it upsets me to read it, and I’ve read it fifty times. It’s not a pleasant scene. Anyone who looked at that picture and read the text surrounding the word count box can probably agree with that, considering the snippets in the frame of the photo.
It’s right on track to be approximately 130,000 words, which is the length I was aiming for. It’s a hefty book, but as it’s a trilogy, I think that’s acceptable length for each book. I’ve given promotion and merchandising a lot of thought with this one, and it has some potential for some really fun stuff if I can get it in the right hands. A lot of potentials and ifs, but I have hope. Especially because I have a good network of critical urban fantasy lovers helping me polish this bad boy so it shines.
(Sidenote: I have a fabulous little nook here at Starbucks where I come to relax, write, and sometimes eat between shifts. Today, the ‘Bux has won big — Bistro Box with tuna salad, and a salted caramel mocha. Lawdy, kill me now. I might die from delicious. My habitat of choice here is a little corner by the bagged coffee, set off from the line and sheltered from the drafts of the door. When I can get this spot, it is a good day in my world. Two hours of bliss.)
Back to the issue of exposition. I have a couple specific chapters that I know convey important information and introduce characters who are big players in the later books. They also further the plot by showing cracks in relationships between my good guys and hinting at some bad ones. In spite of all that, I am finding myself doubting that they’re as effective and tense as they should be. In that case, I think my best bet might be to just bust out the chopping block and start hacking, but I’m not sure. That will be something to trot by the faithful few of my reading rebels. (I couldn’t think of a better name on short notice. Oops.)
One of my other big pitfalls with exposition is the dialogue info dump. Eesh. The reason I trip into that hole so often is because my protagonist is pretty ignorant of the world she landed in, and her main source of information is the people around her and some books. It’s more convenient to the story to have her at least engaging her companions rather than gluing her nose to the spine of a book for two chapters, so I turned to dialogue for a lot of it. In this draft, I’ve made an effort to, if not cut as much as I should, at least ensure that those instances of conversation are as true to the voices of the characters as possible and that it doesn’t look like a trashy tabloid interview.
Do any of you struggle with that? I’ve built a really complex world, and if there’s anything I’m having trouble finding precise details for, it’s the backstory and intricacies of this world. My protagonist sort of got tossed into it without much ceremony and ripped out of her own. She can’t go back to the “normal” world, so she’s stuck in the new one and needs to learn about it somehow or she’ll go crazy (crazier, perhaps). The trick is finding what details to show the reader and when. It will help when I can switch perspectives a bit more in book two, because I can go with some different views and show some more “insider” bits. Book three will be the most fun with that, because it’ll be from the POV of a three hundred year old vampire.
On that note, how do you write your exposition in your novels? I know a lot of you who subscribe to my humble blog write fantasy or sci-fi, so I can imagine your novels run into a similar vortex. Tell me tell me tell me, wise readers!
Your voice is how you write, the way you handle language, your style—if you have one. Do I? I write like I think. I like spontaneity. I push and pull, change speed and rhythm, balance short and long sentences. I compare it to jazz riffs and drumrolls. I’m economical with words, but I won’t interrupt a nice solo.
I never have to think about this. It’s me.
But does it rise to the level of “voice”—and does it even matter? I’ve known excellent writers who don’t have a recognizable voice, but have earned awards and attracted readers through their work. Your voice, ultimately, will be what comes out of you. And you’re entitled to it. But how you use it will also depend upon the audience at which it’s aimed and/or the market to which it’s sold.
The desire to develop a voice of your own may make you wish you could write like some others you’ve read. Feel no guilt; all artists stand on the shoulders of those they admire. Thus, for 30 minutes: Rewrite a page of your writing in the style of someone you admire. Don’t worry about losing yourself in the process—you’ll be doing just the opposite.
Happy writing, revising, and let’s not forget FRIDAY, gentle viewers! May your weekend start before mine does (which is Monday).