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Ok, so I'm writing a book set around 10 years in the future. Obviously, them being in the future, there are more high-tech gadgets that we don't have here. Normal things that they use in their every day life is far more high-tech and sophisticated than things we use here in 2020.

Now the thing I need to know is how I can describe one of these things when I can't smoothly fit it in. I'm at a part in the story where the main character and his friends and breaking a friend out of jail, and one of my characters, whose name is Chester, is making a plan to get her out. The plan includes going to the control room and using an advanced EMP to hack and activate the prison's lockdown anonymously.

Now while explaining the plan, Chester pulls out a Digi-Map, which is a digital map which is shown in 3-D, and can be bought either full, or empty. But I can't find a place to explain this to the reader without destroying the flow and kind of taking away from the genius plan that Chester has. Here's what I'm talking about.

"...easily accessible for the guards but hidden away and hard to get to for the threat, be it a bomb or a one-man army,” Chester stopped talking and took something out of his pocket, it looked like a Digi-Map, but this one was empty.(insert text here) “Now the most likely place something like that would be placed would be either underground,” he marked the Digi-Map..."

That's what I'm having trouble with. At the end the full sentence is "He marked the Digi-Map towards the underground middle of The Facility. That was our target." But I'm not sure where to explain to the reader that the map is 3-D making this possible. I was thinking about putting it where it says "insert text here," but I felt like that would interrupt his flow if you see what I mean, so I thought about putting it in parenthesis at that place instead, but I'm not sure if I'd be allowed to do that either. Can someone please help me?

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  • Bro I swear to god you guys are geniuses. Honestly I could've spent hours thinking, and I did, but for some reason I never came up with ANY of these ideas. THANK YOU GUYS. Dec 9 '20 at 23:48
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Ideally, show, not tell. The reader wants to be able to visualise how your technology works. And trust them to pick up on context clues - if it's called a Digi-Map, it's not hard to deduce what it's for.

Chester stopped talking and took a Digi-Map out of his pocket. He activated it, revealing a glowing projection of the target facility.

“Now, the most likely place something like that would be placed would be either underground,” he said, reaching into the image and touching the base of the central elevator shaft, which lit up in red, "or..."

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Maybe you can change the name of the object to reflect what it does. You're already 80% there with Digi-Map, just add 3D to the front of it and/or replace Digi with Holo and it implies the fact that it's a 3d holographic model. If the name describes the basic functions, you can go more in depth later about all the tech specifications.

Another option is to encounter this object before now, that way you can describe it without having to worry about interrupting the flow of the story. Or maybe even have the character explain the map to the reader/other characters. If they already know what a Digi-Map is, then this probably won't work.

Just a side note, but I've taken a paragraph to describe new objects, essentially pausing the story while the character runs through all the stats on the object, and then jumping right back into the action. Although, most of the time I do this, the item I'm encountering is some sort of weapon trying to shoot the characters. Just a thought.

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So what you need to do is break this into multiple paragraphs to drill down in the action:

"...easily accessible for the guards but hidden away and hard to get to for the threat, be it a bomb or a one-man army.”

Chester stopped talking and took something out of his pocket, it looked like a Digi-Map, but this one was empty.

(insert text here)

“Now the most likely place something like that would be placed would be either underground,” he marked the Digi-Map..."

Notice the bold text in the second paragraph. The narrative voice is going to be telling th audience what a Digi-Map is. We don't know... we don't have these... it's all in your creative head. Chester taking something out of his pocket is a complete sentance. After this, describe what the hardware looks like. What's a digi-map look like? Is it a pyramid that projects the hologram from the tip? Is it a small ball held in a hand that projects outward? What color is it? Does it have lights or buttons or lens and are they on or off? Imagine going to the year 2000 and describing just what an iPhone looks like. Becaues year 2000 me is going to look for a flip phone, with number pad keys, an attena, and a big letter I on it... 2000 me has no concept of a touch screen or a single button for the entire physical user interface. Hell, I have no idea what the significance of a full vs empty Digi-Map is... so you need to explain this to your readers (I have an idea from inference that it's a map that the user has to create rather than a map that someone would buy, say of the state or the world. Personally, I find the consumer packaging details to not be a great deal of importance to the scene and call this "Biblical Info"... that is, you the aurthor know this detail as part of your world building, but I the reader, don't need to know this fact about Digi-maps are sold with both pre-programed maps OR Tabula Rasas for user generated maps). Finally, how used is it? Is it fresh out of the box or does it show wear and tear.

Second bolded paragraph needs to describe the change of state when it's activated. Let the reader know it's a 3-D map projection... but again, paint a picture for us (what color is the hologram? Is it like watching a model with tiny moving figures or is it a 3-D blue print? Is it solid in appearence, or does it flicker like Star Wars holograms? When he touches the part of the map, how does the image change? Is the area a crudly drawn red line, or does it react some other way?).

Either way, when I read your book and then years later hear it's being made into the must see summer blockbuster/HBO series, your work should describe a Digi-map to such a degree, that the special effects are exactly the same thing I see in my minds eye when I imagine the scene.

In both cases, remember to show some reaction or recognition of your viewpoint character. If I met 2000 me and showed him my iPhone, he'd be blown away by all the amazing things I can do with a device that fits in my hand. (Hell, the fact that I have Pokemon GO! on my device alone would blow his mind. 2000 me would be in the middle of the original Pokemon craze... 2020 me would know of 8 generations of the game.). But for me, my iPhone is 6 years old and woefully outdated... they're releasing iPhone 13 at time of writing, meaning my iPhone is 7 generations behind. The 13s are more bleeding edge to me, then my iPhone6 is to 2000 me! Or to put this another way, showing the internet that I have an iPhone 6 is met with reactions of "Wow, what a geezer" where as showing an iPhone to a person in the year 2000 is tantamount to revealing that we also have flying Deloreans.

The dialog is broken off into seperate paragraphs because all action in a chapter/scene, including narrative exposition, is seperated by a paragraph. The narrative voice describing cool future tech to the reader is action. Chester speaking is action... they cannot occupy the same moment in time, so they cannot occupy the same paragraph.

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You can use parentheses, but it’s still going to interrupt the flow of the scene. And without an explanation it seems like the item is coming out of nowhere and raises a bunch of questions that you probably don’t have the space to answer in an action scene.

There’s really one good solution: introduce the item earlier and explain what it is then. You could show the character getting the item, or have your characters see them being used (ie world building).

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