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Old 06-01-2012, 10:26 AM   #21
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Ooh, no, I wouldn't like that - I'm afraid I'm a purist, I like my stories to be self-contained. If information has to be imparted separately, then I haven't done a good enough job with the writing.
But mangakas in Japan use the side boxes, so technically they're as puristic as can be!

I do actually disagree with you that using this kind of storytelling technique is a sign of bad writing. Personally, I see them as a sort of supplement, a place to do info-dumps rather than in dialogue, which might slow the plot down.

(Sorry, I realise it's been days since you wrote that, but I only just got access to a computer again.)
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Old 06-01-2012, 12:49 PM   #22
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But mangakas in Japan use the side boxes, so technically they're as puristic as can be!
I'm not talking about comics here - I'm talking about stories, and I think this applies (or doesn't apply, if you disagree) for any medium. Frankly, I'm long past caring what Japanese mangaka do or holding it up as an automatic ideal I just borrow the techniques I think work, whether in art, layout and storytelling whatever the original medium. That particular technique, I'm not too fond of.

For what it's worth, though, there's a lot of things I avoid in telling my own stories that I'll quite happily read. I dislike writing about chosen ones, for example, or writing humour which makes reference outside the story, but I thoroughly enjoy Avatar and Scott Pilgrim and think they're both excellent ^^

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I do actually disagree with you that using this kind of storytelling technique is a sign of bad writing. Personally, I see them as a sort of supplement, a place to do info-dumps rather than in dialogue, which might slow the plot down.
I agree that info-dumps in dialogue are bad, but needing to resort to adding stuff outside the story is not much better. The story should be able to accommodate everything it needs to in order to be a coherent narrative.
The exceptions are 'story so far' bits (which wouldn't be needed if the story was read in one go) and little extras which aren't required for the story but are fun (omake, for example, or background histories. Tolkien's massive appendices are an extreme example ).

I don't think having the extra bits is an indicator that a story isn't any good, mind - there are all sorts of constraints on storytellers and if it's a good story I'll put up with a bit of added infodump or other less-than-ideal trick (there's one fantasy author who copy-pasted his characters' descriptions word for word at the beginning of every book!). But I have control over my own stories, and I want them to be as good as they can be, which means, for me, that they have to be whole in themselves, not needing anything specific outside the narrative. If that makes sense ^^
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:05 AM   #23
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I thought in general sideboxes are more like DVD extras, used in books to fill in what was ad space in the original magazine? Though I've seen footnotes used to add extra info, Terry Pratchett does it a lot in Discworld, and Johnathon Strange and Mr Norell which is an alternate history fantasy uses the idea it's a period text and adds great big chunks of info in footnotes.

Conveying info you can't expect your readers to know about the world is pretty tricky though, once you become aware of "info-dumping" , you tend to see it everywhere.

You often hear the advice show, rather than tell ,which IMHO is good advice. Actually Star Wars ( original trilogy) is a pretty good example on how to show rather than tell ( and thus avoid unnecessary info dumping) . I wasn't aware of this consciously until I saw the Mr Plinkett Star Wars reviews , but the opening shot to a new hope, shows a gigantic Imperial ship chasing down a tiny rebel one. That one single shot shows you that, there's a conflict and one side is more powerful than the other. So if we take this back to comics, I think what your visuals show is also a very important part of the story also!

In the end I think it boils down is what serves your story the best.

I bought a while ago now a really awesome book called "Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Getting Published", if you can get it I recommend it, it talks about a lot of the stuff in this thread including info dumping.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:15 PM   #24
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I think there's a fine line between references that are interesting, and fun for people who get them (for example, in Sandman) and annoyingly clever-clever about showing people how much cool stuff you know (eg. in American Gods). Yes, Gaiman, you have been an epitome of both.

Despite enjoying parody, satire and general mickey-taking or homages (for example Mad magazine, Spaced), I find that all too often this can be an excuse for lazy writing. Lazy, lazy writing. And it's this kind of knowing "Oh ho ho it's just like The Great Escape, but with TOYS!" writing that leaves people with the erroneous, and somewhat ignorant, belief that there is no such thing as new ideas. There IS such a thing as originality, and basing things wholesalely on "homage" is just weak. If I see any more of these "it's just like Superhero comics, but this time it's REAL" things - Alphas, I'm looking at you - I will scream and throw stuff.

I also think using genres as a way to create your work, rather than to explain it to others, almost inevitably leads into a slippery slope to cliche.

And to get back to the original point: I don't think one can really compare the use of magic in a fantasy setting, to the use of a certain kind of trope (the cute mascot thingy), as one is very general - the suspension of disbelief - and something that all audiences are used to as it occurs in all fictional works to some degree. The other is very, very specific and almost codified in the expectations of the magical girl genre. A more relevant comparison would be: imagine if every fantasy novel had a talking dog in it (as well as magic), and that talking dogs featured in every single fantasy novel ever. If someone was to pick up LoTR and ask why Frodo has a talking dog, that would be a legitimate question, even though nobody might know the answer as they were just "playing to tropes".

Interesting thread.
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