Monday, September 25, 2006

Lesson 6: Exposition

We're back to the start of another week! I hope you all had a great weekend. My internet genius friend Bonnie Wren is flirting with making her own version of the movie, Arachnaphobia...Mwhahaha!

Today we are continuing editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but not posting a lot of good stuff!

Let's continue with exposition.

Everything we've said about characterization applies to exposition as well. Backgroung, backstory, the information your readers need in order to follow and appreciate your plot...all these should be brought out as unobtrusively as possible.

The most obtrusive type of exposition is, of course, a long discourse in the narrative voice. The same thing holds true for interior monologue.

Perhaps the toughest expostion challenge is introducing your readers to a new culture. This could be something as simple as conveying everyday life in rural Tennessee to readers who may live in Palm Beach (or visa versa). How do you transport your readers to strange new worlds without loading down your opening with a lot of expostion?

Bear in mind that this kind of background is really characterization, only what's being characterized is a culture rather than a person. and as was the case with characterization, readers can best learn about your locations and backgrounds not through lengthy exposition but by seeing them in real life.


Look back over a scene or chapter that introduces one or more characters. How much time, if any, have you spent describing the new character? Are you telling us about characteristics that will later show up in dialogue and action?

How about character histories? How many of your characters' childhoods have you developed in detail? Can some of these life stories be cut?

What info (technical details, past histories, backgrounds) do your readers need in order to understand your story? At what point in the story do they need to know it?

How are you getting this information across to your readers? Have you given it to them all at once through a short writer-to-reader lecture?

If the exposition comes out through dialogue, is it through dialogue your character would actually speak even if your readers didn't have to know the information? In other words, does the dialogue exist only to put the information across?

You've done good today...enjoy an oldy but goody joke! See ya' tomorrow!

The strong young man at the construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen.

After several minutes, the older worker had enough. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is," he said."I will bet a week's wages that I can haul something
in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won't be able to wheel back."

"You're on, old man," the braggart replied. "Let's see what you got."

The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to the young man, he said, "All right, put your boney butt in the wheelbarrow!"


  1. Anonymous said...
    Your site looks FABULOUS!
    Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
    Thank you...come again
    Bernita said...
    A couple of really good points, Bonnie.
    Viewing the culture and setting as a character, and avoiding the beginners impulse to drop in all the information at once.

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