Another great podcast from the writing excuses team. This time with Patrick Rothfuss (I did love his book) on writing exposition.
One comment that stood out was Brandon’s conscious choice to leave some explaining to chapter 6 of Mistborn. Not only did it make the beginning more accessible, but it actually created a sense of mystery about Kelsier. I wanted to know more.
Although, I would caution new writers that when Rothfuss talks about withholding, he’s talking about setting. He’s not talking about keeping the story from the reader. You can’t build suspense if you hide what’s going on, the dangers, etc. You can build a bit of curiosity, but that only holds the reader’s attention for a short time. Give information for suspense. Withhold for curiosity. They are two different things.
To get a sense of proportion on exposition or broad brushing a character, I recommend Bernard Cornwell’s writing advice: http://www.bernardcornwell.net/chapters/writingadvice.htm
Take a book you love, get a colored pencil or crayon, then begin reading. When you find a passage of descrition/setting, draw a line along the side. After 30 or so pages of doing this you’ll begin to see how much setting the author puts in and how he goes about doing it. Do this with a few stories you love and you’ll begin to see patterns.
You can do the same thing with character. In fact, I just finished FEAR NOTHING by Dean Koontz. Loved how he did his characters. So I’ve got a used copy and a copy of VELOCITY and am marking them up. I’ve gotten a number of very interesting insights.