I have read 3 of the books in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin Series. I enjoyed the first two books, but Xenocide, the third in the series, left me irritated. Why? Well, for the same reason my own work can sometimes irritate me: too much explaining. All that seems to happen in the book is people thinking about things and then talking about things. Do things happen? Not as much as the talking and thinking happens!
Exposition is difficult as a writer. I get it! Reading preference for many people has been impacted by viewing movies, tv shows, videos, etc. We like to be shown far more than we like to be told. We want to watch the movie in our mind. A scene of two or three people talking about deep metaphysical ideas is boring.
This book is full of big metaphysical and philosophical ideas. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be willing to destroy an entire planet to avoid killing all of humanity? What does it mean to play god? All of these question are discussed and thought about. So very little action seems to happen. Bonus, it’s 16 hours of all of that talking.
I had to keep reminding myself that it is very difficult to do more than think and talk about these ideas. How can one show the reader these big ideas? How can characters discuss these big issues without a reader wanted to slam his/her head on a table in boredom?
I don’t have the answer. My best guess is to make it entertaining and remove the boredom from the equation. Case in point: my New Devil book that I re-wrote this July. I am changing the entire conversation about what Hell is in this book. It’s not the place sinners go for punishment. It’s where everyone goes no matter what… unless you want to reincarnate. PLUS this novel is the introduction to the universe I have created. As an entry it must explain some of the rules of this universe. With this in mind, I tried to do two things: explain the rules of THIS Hell and entice my reader with hints about the greater universe.
While I wrote, I found my characters talking about this stuff in circles. I was bored and I am the writer. My poor readers are going to put this book down and never finish if I don’t figure out how to fix this. An idea came to me a few weeks after I finished the book: make it a ride. Credit going through Harry Potter themed rides in June. For the past month I have been playing with the idea of the ride through Hell. I have been trying to come up with song lyrics and little scenes for the ride. All the while, this has been in my head.
Bonus, the tone of the Shrek scene is so delightful that the child-like, tongue-in-cheek humor of it is exactly what I want for my ride.
So, my question to you is: How do you feel about long passages of dialog explaining the rules or issues of a universe? Does the idea of a ride appeal to you?
Bonus, in the comments tell me, if you died and found yourself in Hell, what information do you want to know ASAP?