Advice on Introducing Lore?

#1
Hi! I'll make it brief. I have a story I'm absolutely longing to tell, and a metric tonne of worldbuilding that I've done in the background for it all, but I've never been good about introducing key concepts in a way that doesn't feel... ham-fisted, to say the least. What are some good tips for introducing concepts and key-words without breaking up the flow of the story itself, so that they can be present but unobtrusive in the overall piece? Any advice is good advice, so please, hit me with it!

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#3
I won't say I've done an amazing job with exposition in my current story, but here's the key points imo.
  • Angle for excuses - if a character is in a situation that forces them to explain something to someone else, that's a sneaky way to add worldbuilding.
  • It's okay to introduce terminology and explain it better later if you can't at that moment.
  • Make the worldbuilding obvious through action, if a character is casting a spell, have the POV character observe them.
  • Characters having a previous personal relationship with someone else can be a good way to explore their backstory.
  • If you have to explain in prose, break things up between chapters so it doesn't get too heavy. You can have a little exposition as a treat.
  • Keep things to the point and relevant.

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#4
The pleasure is in the discovery, not the knowing.
Example:
Quote:The field itself was idle enough. The flowers that grew there were native only to its soil, and sold for a pretty pocket of coin as a result. You could almost be forgiven for not noticing them, though, because of the enormous floating city that rocked so gently above the plains. Said to be kept aloft with a single, cleverly enchanted brick that acted as a capstone for the whole wonderous thing, mages made it their life's ambition to visit the Tipping City of Tapablana.
It's perfectly okay description (if I do say so myself) but is a little bit dense. I imagine this is what you're struggling with—the image in your head is clear as a movie, but getting it on the page leaves something to be desired. Let the readers discover things for themselves:
Quote:Castor had expected to catch sight of the city from the top of the hill, but when the tips of its buildings started to edge over the crest at only halfway up, he realised the stories weren't just true, but literal. Tapablana wasn't sinking into the marsh. Quite the opposite. It was hundreds of metres above that sodden, grassy expanse.

No wonder mages liked it there. How was he going to get in? Their key was magic, but his?

Castor paused for a second and, at his professor's beckoning behest, snipped a few of the famous flowers that grew between the reeds. Odd things, really. He plucked one of the petals and let it go, to find it thought little of gravity, spiralling instead towards Tapablana itself and vanishing against the white glare of the clouds. Castor resisted the urge to jump, in case he followed it.

As he got closer to where the city would have been, were it normal and not kept aloft by a single, enchanted brick whose owner probably charged a grand old sum to see it, the wise sod, Castor began to wish he'd approached from the West. That way, he might trek in its immense shadow instead of baking in the scorching midsummer heat.
(source is invented and not edited, but you get the idea)
Of course, the second is longer, but that's the point. It covers all the same information that the first example does, save for the life's ambition, but that can come later—perhaps in dialogue. Some conflate this purely with the show, don't tell argument, but I hate that advice. Both are necessary. I don't need to say that the flowers are valuable, for it is implied.
In the second, the reader is led to discover something, rather than being told something. I also agree with the above comments, too.

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#5
It varies and depends on the character's knowledge and the moment. This will be a longer post, so brace yourself.

1. You can use the setting of your scene to weave in worldbuilding - describing a street, the people there, some peculiar objects, and buildings gives the reader bits and pieces of information about the world.

Quote:
In Sefis everything was made of wood or pressed straw, covered with a layer of colorful plaster. Here, the lower floor of the buildings was made of solid round stones, with the upper wooden one slightly protruding over it. But what was even more amazing were the windows. Only the lord and the few richest families in Sefis could afford themselves glass windows. Everyone else had to go only with wooden shutters. Here, there were many more glass windows, even on some houses that were definitely not extensively rich. Even the poorer looking ones had windows made of some strange white fabric. [...]
[...] A few streets away from the port stood the glass-maker borough. In front of the small shops were displayed the most intricate ornaments and utensils Lorelei had ever seen. There were goblets as clear as raindrops and as blue as the skies or red as blood; vases, flasks, and vials in all colors shapes, and sizes decorated the stands; birds, animals, and flowers, so life-like but all made of glass, reflected the sunlight and gathered the attention of the passersby. One of the shops specialized in mirror-making, another – in window glass. There were even hair ornaments and jewelry of sparkling glass and gems, embedded in ornate silver and golden frames.

Book 1, Chapter 14

2. Coming from the previous example, if one of the characters, is new to the setting, describing something unusual and commenting, internally, is a good way to introduce worldbuilding and deliver some character development (attitude, way of referring to unknown/new concepts/people/places, the things the character emphasizes on). 

Quote:With huge eyes, Lorelei observed the figures of the Binshi emerging from between the trees and thought they really deserved the name White Elves. From the tips of their hair to the hems of their garments, they were clad in the color of winter. As they came closer, more and more details of their attire became visible. Silver and black patterns crawled on their clothing, merging into fantastical shapes that made one dizzy to look at them. Some of the Binshi concealed their faces behind blood-red veils with thin slits for their eyes, making them look even more mysterious and domineering. Others wore impressive head-decorations of beads, horns, and filigree metal, with small silver bells attached, that chimed a clear tune with each step.
Most of the Binshi were walking on foot but six were mounted on strange goat-like creatures. The sizes of mules, with two pairs of crystalline horns curling on the sides of their fluffy heads, these beasts were a strange combination of cuteness and strength. Their silky gray coats shone in the midday sun like covered in spring dew. The clanking of beads from the reins together with the beats of their hooves on the ice bridge, and the bells of the Binshi, created a kind of strange music to accompany the procession.

Book 2, chapter 42
 
3. My personal favorite - through dialogue. In this case, you need to have at least one party knowing the lore and one naive party needing the explanation/lacking complete knowledge. It might be tricky to write so that it doesn't seem unnatural and too info-dumpy. My tip is to intersperse some non-lore dialogue elements and some actions that would break the question-answer wall of monotonous text. Here are some good (and not-so-good) chapters from my own text:
Book 1, Chapter 47
Book 2, Chapter 46
And here is something short from the upcoming chapter this Monday:
Quote:The kukul flinched at the threat but didn’t argue further. He pulled out a filigree carved bone sphere the size of a man’s fist with gaps on its surface revealing several smaller spheres interlayed beneath the outer shell. Throwing it to Kash-baba, the kukul retreated back and, by what was visible from behind the red veil, he wasn’t very pleased. The old shaman ignored him. She pressed some hidden levers and five sharp needles appeared on one of its sides. Pulling apart his garments, Kash-baba was about to stab the needles in Gregor’s chest when Noah grabbed her hand.
“What are you doing to him? What is this thing?”
“Easy, child!” The old woman smiled back. “This is a kukulak. It is meant to forcefully extract one’s soul.”
“Wha…?”
“We need to separate his body and soul.” Kash-baba cut off Noah's protest. “The wound from [the sword] won’t be able to heal while his soul is in the body. Rather, the soul will continue to disintegrate until nothing is left and he dies.”
Noah stared at her blankly, his grip loosening for a split second. Using the opportunity, the old Binshi plunged the needles into Gregor’s pale skin with a speed far exceeding what her aged body should have been able to exert.
“The majority of the Little Wolf’s soul will enter the kukulak and be protected and nurtured,” she said. “This will buy time for the wound to heal. Look, it’s starting.”
Before Noah’s eyes, the layers of spheres forming the artifact began to rotate around their axes and little specks of light began to gather in the very center of the kukulak.
“How…” Noah swallowed hard, “How long can he survive like this? I know that the longer a Binshi’s living soul is out, the harder it gets to merge back with the body.”
“The mayak bead that the kukul’s use will help with that.” Kash-baba brushed some sweat away from her forehead. “It is made for that exact purpose - to be a beacon so that one’s spirit can return after a long separation. Since I can’t take all parts of the young one’s soul without killing him, the part that’s left in the body will also call back and increase the effect of the mayak.”
“But… ” Noah hesitated, unwilling to say the words, “if some fragment of his soul is left, what would Red Dawn’s effect be on it?”
“If we are lucky, its presence will be too negligible and pass undetected by the sword’s magic. If not, his powers might be crippled to some extent. Worst case - he’ll die.”

4. Inner monologues/thoughts - when your characters are in a position where they have the time to reminisce about what someone else had told them (Never use this during a fight scene! It saps away the tension and messes up the pacing of a fight scene!)
Quote:On the top of the hill a small stone circle, surrounded by straight white columns, opened up to the clear spring sky. In its very center, there was a deep crack in the ground from which a dancing emerald flame erupted. Even though the prioress had told her about this, Lorelei still felt awed, facing the real thing. This was the Eternal Flame of Yalda. According to the legends, a thunder-spear of the heavenly army fell here, cutting the ground and igniting the Eternal Flame. This was a holy place where the souls of the deceased heroes of Norden were sent to heaven.
Book 1, Chapter 11
 
In the end, a bit of info-dumping is fine, as long as it isn't a wall of text and page after page of dry descriptions.

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#6
One effective trick that works if you have multiple POVs in your story is to use the character that knows the least about what's going on. It's easy to do this wrong (or too much), but by choosing that character for POV, you've picked someone who is most aligned with the reader, especially early in the story. It's a useful way to convey information without falling into the traps of info dumps (which your POV character likely won't have patience for) or "as you know, Bob" moments (because your POV character already knows).

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#7
This is a technique I haven't used yet, but keep in the back of my mind.

In the world of one of my favorite published works, there is this guy, (I forgot his name), who writes a travel guide type of book.

Something like (I used my name here, instead of the travel guide guy): 
Lire's Journey Around The World! - Strange Adventures in [Insert Location Here]

Whenever the main character reached a new location/country etc etc, there would be an excerpt from the travel guide.

The main character has also read this travel guide, so the reader knows pretty much the same things as the MC, as he arrives.

I don't think I felt bored reading the excerpts. And I believe I was somewhat conditioned to treat them as a separate book than what I was actually reading. 

You can change up your style in the travel guide, and even make it super-narratey because travel guides are like that. (At least the ones I've read, are like that.)

Anyways, hope this helps! Also, there was quite a few great pieces of advice here, and I ended up benefitting a lot!

The book I'm talking about is Mushoku Tensei by the way.

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#8
Lore is a part of setting and worldbuilding. The more you keep them connected, the easier it is to handle. 

In a practical example, you'll note that American money has "in god we trust" on it. This was added in the 50s, and has still stuck. Despite the US not being based around one particularly religion (according to the constitution), it is deeply engrained in the culture. Common English swears are "Jesus Christ" and variations of "Oh my god." The lore required to understand those phrases can be found throughout the setting of the US, as well as people's opinions on it and its place. You can differentiate people of different religions based on their reactions to hearing "Oh my god" in certain cases.

Lore for fictions does not need to be any different. I would say attaching an attitude to a common belief is a quick way to get the reader up to speed. Is there a swear that makes the MC flinch? Do they have a favorite place named after a legend of old? Is there a colloquialism they get in trouble for saying?

Lore is some of my favorite stuff, especially when it comes to culture and worldbuilding. The characterization options are endless!

Re: Advice on Introducing Lore?

#10
The most important thing first: Never ever put it before your story! Your first chapter is what makes or breaks your story. Don't bore the reader with anything else before you start the actual story, or you reduce potential readers to a very small number of hard-core fans.

Introducing lore is also a task never completed. Even if you managed to introduce it in a motivated and entertaining form, some readers might still have forgotten it. So remember to give enough hints about the lore to keep it present.

Also remember to not exhaust your lore. A good story makes sense in the way that a reader cannot easily spot inconsistencies in the world building. To get there you have to know more about the world than the reader. (Same as with characters background and back story. You need them not to tell them but to make the story better by not telling them but knowing them).

Keep in mind that humans tend to at some level distrust any information they are told. While they believe anything they have determined on their own. So best tell as little lore as possible, but make it trivial to learn about the lore in the story.

Always think twice before you openly introduce some lore? Is it really needed to understand the story? Or wouldn't it be clear to mots readers anyway and perhaps not make a difference to those that did not get it?

If you introduce some lore, always consider those aspects:

* In story-motivation: Does it make sense from inside the story and the style of telling it? If it was anything but this lore, would you still use so many words for it? If not then it likely lacks motivation and thus feels foreign. Would the narrator (or the character a 3rd person limited "narrator" is following at the time) actually focus on that? Or is it out of character?
* interest: Is the reader interested to know that already? It might feel logical to introduce lore before the reader needs it. But if they do not know they need it, why should they continue reading instead of switching to a less boring story?
* entertainment In the end fiction is read for its entertainment factor. Just like any other part of the story it must be fun to read in some way. If there is no way to make it fun, then consider again to do without.