My goal is to introduce the reader to a ‘wonderful’ fantasy world with an underdog main character full of panache…and delve into the constraints and debilitations of living in such a highly stratified, unmeritorious society. However, I understand the problem this might cause. The beginning of a story is important in laying out the tone of a piece, and I’ve personally read one too many books where the author decides to take an unaccounted for, grim-dark tone shift in the middle of the story that – frankly – kind of ruins the reading experience.

My question is, how can I lay out the exposition to create a ‘false sense’ of security and positivity, without making the tonal shift to a darker, more serious plot later on too jarring for the reader?

  • 4
    Have the MC notice that some things feel off or are too perfect but can't quite place it. Have him not trust some aspects and then uncover what ever the hidden agenda is later on. Then it won't be such a huge change and the bread crumbs for it is laid out in his miss trust of the society.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 20:49
  • Can you please clarify? I understand that you want to start with a world of unicorns and fairies and at some point shift to something darker? This appears to be absolutely normal - just compare Shire and Mordor.
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 23:27
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    There was an anime that did something similar too where it was this perfect world but then the system that controlled this world had a loophole and the bad guys started abusing it causing mayhem.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


Your concern is warranted. Readers don't like to be duped. Period. Even mysteries and whodunnits have to "make sense"; otherwise it doesn't encourage anyone to read it.

In general, it doesn't matter how clever you are, abrupt, jarring changes turn off the reader.

Now, foreshadowing a revelation or creating a dramatic niche for a "big twist" works for most authors. But the background needs to be there. We need to care about the character either through direct action or understood deeds before we care about his social class.

It's hard for us to care about your character if we don't have a sense of "what's really going on" right from the start.

Doing what you suggest is like pulling the rug out from your readers. Do you have a good enough reason to do it?


Get your story straight!

My goal is to introduce the reader to a ‘wonderful’ fantasy world with an underdog main character full of panache…

How does a wonderful fantasy world produce an underdog, exactly? The world is seldom wonderful for underdogs, because by definition they are dominated by alpha dogs and treated like second class citizens. Economically, socially, and romantically.


I harp on this a lot in these answers, but it applies here. If the world is a worm infested cake with a nice layer of icing, then there must be some ramifications of that; at some point the worms break through, or we see them moving under the icing.

Those are scenes you need to show. People that commit suicide in this paradise. People with perfect jobs, houses, cars, clothes and kids, sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom stall.

Senior co-workers that should love their life and hate it so much they attempt suicide.

The POV character can encounter such people but not understand their plight, perhaps, or accepts things as they are because nothing has really affected them yet.

You don't need a lot of these, but you do need something very early in the setup of your story. Not page 1, but early enough to give the reader a clue that there is a hidden snake in Paradise.

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