You pointin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you pointin’…you pointin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.
When world building, indicating or explaining, using dialogue or exposition, is necessary. One of the biggest criticisms a published author indicated to me was my world. (Why do people say published author? Like that validates my work, their advice, or me.) That I had to give more details, really go into how politics work, are there classes in society, where and how do they live, etc. All the nitty-gritty stuff that helps ground the world into reality.
However, once you get passed that, indicating too much is too much. Cause it’s too much. I think that’s what writing folk call writing on the nose. I tend not to write on the nose cause there’s not much room there. The basic premise is not to be so obvious, to dictate, to indicate story to the point where it’s not fun.
An example of this was The Lost Symbol. Part of the premise of the book was how thought helps create and manipulate our world, something that I’ve been interested in for most of my life. As I trudged through the book, I felt like I was being lectured by one of those new age preachers asking me to give my lifesavings and body to the better good. Not sure if that’s an example of on the nose writing, but Dan Brown’s overuse of italics seriously annoyed me. Not because it was italicized. But because he was trying so hard, it felt to me, to indicate what these people were thinking and feeling. Why not use expository sentences in between dialogue to do that? But who am I?
I think a great way of showing what your character is about, or how your world works is layering different things that point to a certain idea.
The martial art school I used to go to played favorites in a big way, without explicitly showing it by hiding it in meaning.
Upon entering the school, a row of black belts’ pictures lined the wall above the mirrors. The center portrait was of the owner, the master of all masters, the one. Flanking him were black belts in descending degrees. When I was there, I had noticed that my personal teacher, who was third highest rank in the school, slowly moved farther and father away from the center until, ultimately, his image mysteriously disappeared. At the same time, new black belts edged their way closer to the center. It was explained that these individuals were contributing more to the school, while others who didn’t got axed from the wall of fame.
Automatically, you the student in the mirror was below the instructors of the school. And those who followed remained on the wall of shame, while those who didn’t were thought to be outsiders. But it’s those outsiders who usually make the biggest marks in the universe. Bruce Lee anyone? Whoppah! Now, of course, the author should not explain what was really going on, nor lecture his thoughts on being an outsider, like I did with Bruce. That’s for the reader/audience to figure out for themselves, if they so choose. And their interpretation is a good indication of who they are. Isn’t that the fun of reading?