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  1. #1
    Wirt's Fourth Leg Cirias's Avatar
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    Chapter "Bumps"/Flavour Text

    Well, now I'm going to sound like a complete philistine! I'm trying to find the correct name for those blocks of italic text you sometimes see at the beginning of chapters, before the main text begins. Sometimes these are pieces of written history or a diary from the world and crop up a lot in fantasy.

    I wanted to see what people think of these in general? Do you think they add to a story or weigh it down? Do publishers generally mind seeing them in submissions or should they be omitted in favour of jumping straight into a character's head?


  2. #2
    known as Noumenon no more Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    I presume we aren't talking about a mini, prose-y summary of what's to come, as in:
    Chapter 10

    in which Frodo does this, Legolas does that, Aragorn does the other,
    and we learn that Dwarves rarely eat rocks that were once Ogres
    These used to be quite popular and they still crop up today from time to time, although mostly as parody. I know someone who used them in "all" seriousness (and had a Moral at the end of every chapter), and I thought they fell pretty flat.

    I don't know if what you describes has a specific name. I think they can be quite effective, but (like anything else) they need to be done well. To appropriate a term from language teaching, if it's a piece of realia from your story world, it needs to convey an authentic and distinctive voice--that is to say, not merely your main narrative's voice in italics. Beyond that, there needs to be a useful point: either the particular piece has a pleasing correlation with the content of the adjoining chapter, or you are building up to something vital in parallel with the story through their accumulation.

    If on the other hand all you're doing is showing off story world, to me it's less useful and more or less equates to (brace yourself, KatG) The Hated Exposition.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cirias View Post
    ...those blocks of italic text you sometimes see at the beginning of chapters, before the main text begins. Sometimes these are pieces of written history or a diary from the world and crop up a lot in fantasy.
    I believe it counts as an epigraph -- per M-W: "a quotation set at the beginning of a literary work or one of its divisions to suggest its theme." I would think that would encompass fictional quotations, like the ones that preface the chapters in Dune.

    And I love them. They're usually very fast and tantalizing, and when used properly they can alter the reading in a very positive way. I guess you could count them as a flavor of exposition, but they're a fun kind of exposition.

  4. #4
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I have no problem with low-exposition styles, Andrew. You can hate exposition all you like in your work or reading. It's the one true faith, no true Scotsman stuff I object to.

    And that goes for intro italics at chapters. It's fine, some editors may not like it, most won't care, and if it's doing what you want, it can be a useful effect. If you start to feel that they drag the pacing, you can always cut them, but in the meantime, they may help you figure out things about the world and the plot of the story.

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