Thursday, May 14

Grave error in the first tutorial

Before I begin, I have to make a formal apology on the mistake I made in the first tutorial. Seriously. I kinda lumped together exposition and narrative summary when they're totally different. Exposition means explanation. In other words, information dump. This can occur in many ways. For instance:
  • "You see," said the evil Mastermind, "this contraption that you've tried so hard to stop me from making is actually a super intelligent nuclear warhead, which can find and chase any target I set in this computer right here. No matter where that person is, no matter how far, with a push of this red button, it will find him. And make him go Ka-Boom! And why am I telling you this? Because you cannot stop me. Muahahahahaha!"
  • The janitor sighed. He didn't want this additional responsibility, but the Headmaster had kept on insisting. He had no choice but to do it. It would have helped if his pay was raised as well, but it wasn't.
  • "Janice, listen to me." Carl held her shaking shoulders fast. "I'm going to boost you up this ramp, and haul myself up. Then we grab hold of that rope and swing ourselves, one at a time, across. We will go through that tunnel, and hopefully we will find our way out."
  • She looked at her butterfly collection proudly. Not many people can boast having a Karner Blue butterfly on display. The Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) is a small, blue butterfly that has a wingspan of about 1 inch (2.5 cm). This endangered species lives in oak savannas and pine barrens and is associated with wild lupine (Lupinus perennis, a plant that the caterpillar eats). Adults drink the nectar of horsemint, butterflyweed, and bachelors button. The adult male (pictured above) and female have a very different appearance. The upper sides of the male's wings are silver to dark blue with white and black margins. The upper sides of the female's wings are gray-brown to blue, with some bands of orange crescents along the bottom of the hind wing, and white and black margins. The underside of the wings of both sexes are grayish in colorwith orange crescents and some metallic spots along the bottom of both hind wings. The green caterpillar is tended by ants; these ants collect a sugary liquid that is secreted by the caterpillar, and the ants protect the caterpillar from some predators and parasites. (I copied and pasted this article from this site. I'm not into butterflies, so I wouldn't know the details)
The first example is common in any story/movie with an Evil Mastermind. Towards the climax, where tension is high, the hero gets captured. The audience is at the edge of their seat. Then the antagonist explains everything that has happened throughout the story, and also his method of world domination/destruction. Avoid this! Avoid this! Avoid this! The second could be expanded into a scene. But in short stories, this a luxury a writer can't afford. Some writers even prefer writing this way. So this kind of exposition can be considered a stylistic approach, and a quick explanation of things. But you have to know that an exposition stops the story. In this example, when the janitor sighs, it's an immediate scene. Something that's currently occurring. But when I explained the reason for his sigh, the reader is transported to backstory, a summary of a scene that happened beforehand, and not included in the main storyline. Use this sparingly if you don't have or don't care about wordcount restriction; you are at liberty to expand scenes. The third example...well, the writer uses the characters to explain their actions, similar to the first example. But this could be worse: a potentially exciting scene is summarized in the exposition, and the reader is cheated of experiencing the thrill of that tense situation. What makes it even more horrendous is the writer then continues to write out the scene EXACTLY as how he explained it earlier. A writer may get away with this kind of exposition if things don't turn out the way one of the characters explained it. Then it gets interesting. But make sure you just wing it. Don't make the characters stop for another chat on the sequence of getting out of that annoying predicament. In the fourth example, the writer, who's done extensive research on a subject of interest, or is interested in a particular subject (pet interest) he's writing about -- I'm talking about fiction here, not non-fiction -- decides to pull the brakes on the story and explains the history of a stamp, a submarine, and, as above, a butterfly. Some writers think that they've done so much research, it'd be a waste if they didn't include the stacks of information they've gathered. Some find that the information is highly interesting and informative to them, so it should be interesting to everyone else. It's not called pet interest for nothing. Not everyone likes pets. And most importantly, before you decide on dumping all that information into your prose, think thoroughly whether the information will be useful in advancing your story. If you explain about the venomous sac on a frog's face, which could paralyze a person and making him appear dead, make sure one of your characters get paralyzed by this particular venom later in your story. Every word counts, and every information MUST be used to advance the story. If you're convinced it's highly important to explain the history of an old house, present it with skill. Drop bits of information in conversations, or a scene where the hero finds a secret trapdoor, or such. Again, I'm sorry for the misinformation, and I hope this clears up the meaning of expositions. Avoid the-mastermind-explaining-his-plan-to-destroy-the-world exposition. Use others at your own discretion.