Jo Walton (papersky) wrote,

Thud: Half a Crown & Incluing

Words: 1580
Total words: 30671
Files: 4
Tea: Soleil du Pacific
Music: Bach's Orchestral Suites 1&2
RSI: Not so bad
Reason for stopping: End of chapter 10! Which when you think how long chapter 9 took, is quite impressive!

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This is totally a word I made up when I was fifteen, but other people have found it useful. It's in the rec.arts.sf.composition FAQ for instance.

Incluing is the process of scattering information seamlessly through the text, as opposed to stopping the story to impart the information.

Thus having a character called Themistocles Mbarra is incluing, so is having one called The Sword of the Lord Johnston, because those names give you information about a world different from ours. If you have both characters in the same Human Legion, then that's incluing -- "Human Legion" implies aliens, and war, and people with both of those names being there has implications. Incluing is anything where you provide the information through clues and implication rather than infodumps. And you can inclue everything, though background is the easiest to talk about -- you can inclue character development and plot.

There are piles of ways of doing it, where you just drop the information in. "The door dilated" (Heinlein, Beyond this Horizon) is incluing. Stopping the story for an infodump about how traffic lights work and how amazing this is (Heinlein, Job) is incluing about how the person doing this comes from a world without them. It's just plain more interesting to read about the shadows growing more purple as the red sun sets, and then later have someone out early seeing the blue sun rise, than to start off with the astronomy of binary stars -- even if you do want to get into that, getting into it when the reader already cares about the shadows is better.

Thinking about incluing also helps with considering what the "unmarked" state is and not going along with it unthinkingly. Thinkingly is fine, but it's best to examine why you're doing things. If someone called John Smith is normal now, it won't necessarily always be normal. There's a thing I call STP from the chemistry expression for "standard temperature and pressure" meaning the unexamined assumed norms -- and for SF you want to consider whether you want today's social STP or not.

There's also another incluing trick where you give half-pieces of information that add up but you don't add them up ever, you leave them to the reader to add up. That way the reader knows something that you haven't told them. As a reader, I adore this, it's why I love Cherryh and Delany. The problem with it is when it doesn't work, whatever it was doesn't make sense. This is why my primary question to beta readers is "Please tell me if anything doesn't make sense". You can do this best by giving two or three different pieces of something, and it's best if it doesn't matter whether the reader gets it or not. So if you say "The daily airship from Rome" and then later you say "He was walking that way because he was just back from a stint in the Tranquility Helium mines" you can connect this and see that they're mining helium on the moon to supply airships, and if you don't, no big deal. When you do this with major bits of plot, it can be a problem for inattentive readers.
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