Our New World, by Desiree King is the story of a diverse world united at last. Human, Vampire, Magi, Shapeshifters and Fae are all able to dwell in harmony at last, and Sidney and Darien the Dark Prince are both anticipating comeing into their own. But the laws of this new world require they must be wed to assume their rightful places, and they forbid them to marry one another. This is a problem because these two childhood sweethearts are all grown up and hopelessly in love. All the odds are against their ever being together, but Darien has a plan and Sidney is determined, and love conquers all.
The title causes a problem in logic because the characters are calling this “our new world”, but Sidney and Darien share a birthdate, and are both just coming of age, and it seems this new world structure has been in place for much longer than their brief lifespans to date. For me, it seems as if the characters would not be looking at this as their new world, but as the only world they have ever known.
Also my suspension of disbelief could have used more sensory details, to make me smell, hear and feel this world that the author has plunged me into. In spite of the fact that the characters felt stereotyped and lacked depth, I liked them and found myself anticipating when I would be able to learn what happened next.
Also, I didn’t realize until late in the story who the antagonist was. We don’t see how really bad he is until well into the story, so appears as more of an obstacle to be overcome, rather than an adversary, right up until the scene where Henry punishes Sidney because his previous punishments have had no effect and it ticks him off. Only then, are we allowed a glimpse of his cold cruelty, and I have to say, the realization was a shock.
My biggest problem with this story was the fact that although the protagonist is reputed to be a deadly combat fighter and carries the blood lines of not only magi, but a powerful fire fae, it seems someone else is always coming to her rescue, either Darien the Dark Prince, or her bff and P.A., or her Fae grandfather, Eldon. I had difficulty buying into the idea that this spoiled little rich girl with status, was ready to step up and take a council seat or run her city, when she continuously put her own selfish desires ahead of what was best for her city or their new world. Oh, they talked about the possible consequences, but then she presses forward and does as she pleases without a second thought.
Despite this story’s many problems, I found the storyline to be one which held my interest and I found myself wanting to know what happens next. And after all, that’s what is important, isn’t it? I give Our New World three quills.
A writer should show the reader, rather than tell the reader. Help them form a mental picture in their minds. Put them into the story. How many times have we all been told this? Finding a balance between showing and telling is a hard thing to do, but to be a good writer we must strive to achieve that balance.
I’m a person who likes to think big, and in my writing it’s no different. As many of you know, in graduate school, my genre fiction thesis project was the first book in my Playground for the Gods science fantasy series, In the Beginning. But, what you may not know is that my original thesis proposal was for what turned out to be the third book, only in my mind it was the only book and it spans back beyond prehistoric time. While preparing my thesis proposal the feedback that I recieved from instructors and cohorts time and again, was that my proposal would require too much exposition unless I created an epic tomb of unfathomable porportions, way beyond the scope of my thesis requirements, and impossible to complete in the time allowed.
The main problem was that there was a lot of background that I felt the reader needed to understand where the character was coming from in the now of the story. Most of that information was being communicated to my readers through exposition. The story wasn’t taking them back to relive the scene, it was simply filling them in on what they needed to know, because the story I wanted to tell spanned over billions of years. That’s a lot of backstory. That’s exposition.
Robin Conley saw a similar problem in her review of the movie Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, “Almost all of these really big elements deserved a proper set up because they are major story parts that will potentially carry over… The long exposition and set up in the film makes the story drag and hard to stay involved, no matter how many interesting elements there are.” Robin explains what exposition does and why we don’t want too much of it. Too much exposition is like coming in in the middle of a film you’ve already seen, and filling in other viewers on what is happening, instead of letting them watch the film and figure it out for themselves.
That was the problem with my PfG story – way too much exposition. It happens all the time. And it’s easy to overlook it when you’re the author. Which is exactly what I had done with my thesis. I had that story outlined and plotted, but I kept having to stop and fill in the background details with exposition. And exposition tells your readers something, but it doesn’t provide a mental image for them. It doesn’t pulace them in the scene. Action and dialog accomplish those tasks quite well. And my cohorts and instructors were right, although at the time, I didn’t want to believe them.
My solution was to turn my story into a four part series. Hence the Playground for the Gods series was born. All that backstory, which had come out mostly in exposition, became a story of its own, one that I could show my readers, rather than telling them about it. My original story idea will eventually be book three, and although I did have to write the whole first book instead of the story I set out to tell for my thesis, that story outline is still waiting for me to put it in story form.
Of course, that isn’t the only way to solve problems of exposition, but this can be applied without creating entire novels. You simply expand on some scenes to eliminate exposition and create a longer story, chosing those scenes that are most vital to the story. You can also chose to leave certain information out, thus eliminating exposition without lengthening, and perhaps even shortening your story. It is a delicate balance, but as the writer, you must do what the story needs to achieve it. What works for one story may not necessarily be the answer for another.
So, how much exposition is too much? That’s a very subjective question, but generally speaking, if you’re telling your reader what happened, with a few lines of glib dialog thrown in here or there, then you have too much exposition. Your reader wants to get lost in the book, and for that, they need a story that is told in such a way that they feel like they are there.
We’ve all read stories like that. For me, it’s Anne Rice. I may have never been to New Orleans, but after reading some of her books, I feel like the Garden District and the French Quarter are old frieinds. I can smell the magnolia blossoms, and see the old plantation houses as if I’d been there. That’s the kind of story we, as authors, strive to write, regardless of the genre we write in. It’s the kind of story that has the perfect balance, using exposition only when absolutely necessary to fill in details, providing plenty of action and dialog to fill in the rest. It’s a delicate balance, but one we must all strive for.
Until next time, Happy Writing!
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I recently had the pleasure of reading Kistishi Island, by Jordan Elizabeth. This YA novel was a well-written story, with a plot that comes full circle. Although the names are a bit difficult to pronounce, the characters are interesting and likable, especially Corvo (goddess of crows, and Krieg, goddess of war). The main character, Serena, is portrayed to be a teenager with depth, but still a teen, and you won’t be able to help but like her.
When Serena talks to her imaginary friends, they just don’t feel imaginary. The kids at school taunt her and she winds up in trouble all the time. Her aunt thinks she’s crazy and wants to send her to an asylum, her mom is off on archaeological digs all the time and is never around, and her imaginary friends are the only friends she has.
What will happen if she learns her imaginary friends are really goddesses watching over her? We’re about to find out, when she runs away to the Island of Kistishi to find her mom, where the walls of the ruins suck you into underground dwellings and other people see her friends, too. Besides learning that her friends aren’t imaginary, Serena also learns that she is capable of depending on herself, and that she’s capable of having real friends.
This story is well-crafted and perfect for YA readers, (or older readers who secretly love YA stories but don’t want to admit it). It is a fun and exciting read. I give Kistishi Island four quills.
The Psychokinetic by Grace M. DeLeesie is Book 1 in her The Day Twelve Witches Burned series. If this first book is any indication of what’s to come, I might hesitate in reading the sequel books. There are many, many typos, missed words, and misspellings; the whole story is told, rather than shown; there is a lot of head hopping. But the biggest problem was an inability to suspend disbelief. I just couldn’t buy into the odd responses and behaviors of her characters.
Overall, the story line is a good one. Six teenage girls find themselves with extra-sensory powers which normal teens just don’t have. They feel they have been led to find each other, and they’ve bonded to form a tight knit group, who look out for one another, while they search for evidence of who or what they are. And before the first book is finished, we learn that there also exists an evil nemesis, who has followed them through many lifetimes, intent on destroying them. Which, is all pretty cool.
I spoke with the author, Grace M. DeLeesie about my concerns with this story, and she admitted she had some problems with a previous editor. She assured me many of the problems are already being addressed and a revised text will replace the current version. I have to say, I really like the story line, although it could have been written better. I still can’t buy into the story or its characters, but with the author’s assurance that at the least, the grammatical errors and typos will be corrected, I feel comfortable giving The Psychokinetic three quills.
The Clockwork Alice, by DeAnna Knippling, introduces Alice, all grown up, and takes readers on a return trip to Wonderland, where all is not as it should be, or maybe it never was. Knippling does a smashing job of picking up the tone of the original Wonderland stories, making this a fantasy tale which will delight readers of all ages.
Many of our favorite characters make appearances, including the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, and the Cheshire Cat, to name a few. Alice discovers that all of Wonderland is actually made of clockwork mechanisms, including a Clockwork Alice, who looks just like the girl who she once was. But all is not as it should be in Wonderland, or maybe it never was, but it’s up to Alice, or one of the Alice’s, to stop the great unwinding, and set things back in order. Alice may uncover and foil the evil plot to destroy Wonderland, or perhaps she will destroy it all instead, because this trip to Wonderland is just as confusing, or maybe even more so, than the first.
The Clockwork Alice is a well-written, skillfully crafted story that is just plain fun to read. I give it five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.