Let Readers Discover Your World Through the Protagonist

Here’s an example of the kind of writing rule I was just talking about: let’s say you’re inventing a rich, complex new world as the setting for your story.  There will be a lot of details that need to be introduced and explained to readers, and you need to know how to do it. 

There are two options.  First, you could just fill your story with essays; with long, lazy exposition giving endless background for your narrative.  We’ve all seen stories like this, unfortunately.  Students and untalented writers tend to do this–think of books where a character’s physical appearance is described in detail for pages at a time.  Lazy. 

Here’s what a good storyteller does: make your hero someone who’s new to the world, and needs to have everything explained, one thing at a time, just like the reader.  The reader will see your big, crazy world through that character’s eyes, and will discover it alongside him or her. 

This is the strategy used in Harry Potter, The Matrix, and many others.  You can probably think of more.

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