“My name is Flint. Flint Norton. I’m currently clinging to the side of building, five stories above a street that is teeming with undead, all clawing at the bricks and driven by mindless hunger to follow me. Moving slowly, I shrug out of my backpack and reach inside to the brick of explosive and the detonator that I built using spare parts and diagram from an old book. I’m wondering if the damned thing will work when the the wind starts to kick up. Looks like a storm is rolling in–”
“And if you’ll look to the left you’ll see the headquarters of Evil McNasty Corporation. Founded by Cecil McNasty in 1941, it houses the world’s largest collection of totally illegal and mechanically impractical biological testing gizmos. The McNasty Corporation, as it was called originally, developed many of the human/aphid hybrid monsters deployed in some of our nations more inexplicable secret wars. Now–”
“Hey! Lady! Who the heck are you?”
“I’m the tour guide. I’m here to explain the situation to the audience.”
“I think I was doing a pretty good job of that. You know, the clinging to the building with explosives and surrounded by zombies thing I was doing before you interrupted me?”
“Now, I’m sure that our audience would like to hear whether or not you fall and get eaten, but first, let’s take a few minutes to familiarize ourselves with the history of the McNasty Corporation. The merger with EvilTech occurred in 1967, and resulted in advances in both the unnecessarily grotesque medical procedure and stomping on kittens divisions.”
“Do you mind? I’d like to get these charges set before it starts raining. This is a new leather jacket and I don’t want it water stained.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll try to be brief. I’d like to direct your attention to the extensive gardens surrounding the main plant building. Containing a large selection of rare and endangered plant life, these gardens showcase Evil McNasty’s total disregard for the ecological balance of the Earth.”
“You know, screw this. I’m just going to go ahead and blow the building.”
Sound familiar? You start a story that has an engaging character and a nice solid hook, and then the tour guide shows up and derails the plot for a few thousand words of exposition. It can happen in any genre, Fantasy, Science Fiction, even “real world” genres like Mystery. And I can understand the temptation–as a writer I spend a lot of time and effort on background and world building. It’s natural to want to show that off.
But it’s like inviting guests over for a dinner party and then herding them down to the basement so you can show them the joists and the sub-flooring. And yes, I understand that little niggling voice that tells you that the reader really needs to know these things to understand the context of the story.
But we really don’t. All we really need to know is that Flint has to set his explosives and then zip-line across the street to where his partner Butch is waiting with a homemade flamethrower to cover their retreat. You got zombies. You got survivors who want to stay that way. The rest is details, and you don’t interrupt the action for details.
Murder the tour guide.