Beside omniscient narrative that explains the world, what are other techniques to introduce the details of a world to the readers? (That is still part of the story)

I've been thinking two things, but there's got to be more techniques out there.

  1. Bring an outsider that is not native to the world, and have the native explain things. The outsider may or may not the protagonist.

  2. Have the protagonist suffer amnesia or complete memory wipe, then reintroduce the world to him/her.

How to introduce a world that's alien to the reader is nuanced by the space opera genre, and the answers provided are all talking about the narrative technique.

I'm not sure if I use the right term for the question, but I hope you understand what I mean (and please correct me if I'm wrong or unclear)

3 Answers 3


I have been trying to think of this myself as I have a few scenes that will be "foreign" to other groups within the book as well as the reader. What I have come up with to do to help explain some cultural aspects of my world is have one of those other groups within the book ask about it. Then it will be explained through dialog the meaning and context.

Of course some things will come out through narration, but I try to avoid doing this heavily as no one wants to read 3 pages of prose either.

Another thing you can do is, instead of having an outsider... have a younger child ask an adult.. "mommy, why do the adults do that funny dance?" this allows you to educate an in-story character and the reader as well.

You can also leave clues through context...

"We just performed the jakeno chant. Hopefully now we will see some rain come. Our crops really need it" he reported to the tribe chief.

This let's the reader know through context, what that was about without having to sit there and give a history lesson or explain anything in detail about what the jakeno chant says or means. You know it's some form of rain prayer.


I am of the opinion that nobody wants to read about the world I built! Or really I mostly sketched it.

I don't think people want a museum tour, I think they want a story. If what you built does not relate to that story in some way, it doesn't belong. But much of it can, where characters have come from, been, are going, etc. What they have seen, what is amazing, their shared experiences.

It is the reason we make characters have to travel far and wide to accomplish their mission. Imagine if Tolkien had the whole story take place in one village, Imagine if Harry Potter just went next door for his magic lessons instead of traveling to Hogwarts.

Traveling and what Charlie sees on his way to the Ice Village is how he sees your world; and if Charlie travels with Debbi, then she can tell him of the Sand Giants that turned her uncle into a dried husk, now stored in the attic and brought out to be decorated with a handful of tinsel every Christmas.

It helps if your characters encounter new people and they travel in stretches together. IRL many people try to fill the silence with conversation and getting to know people, even if there is no real purpose to it. It is entertainment. I've had dozens of such conversations on planes, and heard life and career stories aplenty.

Half the passengers will travel from California to New York in complete silence; the other half will try to pass the time.

Little stories of walk-on characters within your bigger story is a way to describe the other parts of the world, too.


Introduce them slowly. It is usually easier if the main character is from the world because the observations don't come with questions like "What is this oddly bristled brush in my hand?" that someone later has to explain is a toothbrush. Instead, the main character is holding a toothbrush but then uses a voice command to the sink to dispense water. I certainly don't have a sink like that; so I would assume this book is set in the future.

If, on the other hand, one of your story's plot points is placing your character in a new, unfamiliar environment, then my suggestion would be to begin with him/her/them in their native environment first. This gives the reader time to acclimate and also a chance to care about poor Jake who was transported fight in an intergalactic war right before he finally got to go on a date with his crush.

These are just standard conventions that have made it easier on me.

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