Painful Exposition?

It seems to me that when expositing in science-fiction the risk of being obtrusive is nearly unavoidable. Likely, you’re dealing with concepts that are completely new, so exposition is required. Here are some of the strategies:

1) Find a character who, for whatever reason, doesn’t understand the way his or her world works. Perhaps, they’re a child, or they’ve been living in a cave, or they’re from another time. And then have that character ask dumb questions. You can even get some character conflict mileage out of this dynamic.

2) Each time you introduce a new concept, just launch into description — potentially the most obtrusive of the techniques.

3) Exposit through action. Show how things work as part of the action that advances the story. Just make sure not to invent sub-plots for this obvious purpose.

4) If the thing to be exposited is complicated, it would make sense to have one character teaching another how to interact with it.

5) Don’t exposit. Leave some mystery. This technique can be used along with number 3 well.

What other methods can you offer?

Crafting the Beginning

I am now caught in the infinite loop of the first chapter. I have this habit of browsing books by reading their first line, because I place so much importance on how a story opens. After having taken my first stab at the first chapter, I am, as is to be expected, disgusted with it. Expositionally, it does everything I need it to. Characters are being established. Plots and sub-plots are being set up. A world is unfolding. And yet, having read it out loud once, I find it flat. Suspense is lacking. And although, I realize that suspense is coming in the next chapter, I don’t think it’s soon enough. So I’m setting about revising. As of now, I’ve invented a new character to provide a foil (for both the main character and for the world), and I’m altering the professions of the protagonist and his friend. I’m also considering putting the main character in jeopardy somehow. Needs more thought. There’s more to be done, but I’m feeling better about it.  Until, I’ve written it, and then, of course, I’m sure I’ll need to scrap it again.