Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing tip -- Exposition

Jut what is exposition? The purpose is to inform the reader of things they need to know to understand the characters and the story. This is dealing with information and there are a number of ways to get the information to the reader.

A writer can use a big block of information otherwise known as an info dump. Beward putting too much in one chunk or you will end up sounding like a teacher.

A writer can use one character's observation of another to give bits of information. One problem with this approach is mind reading. Statements are made as to one character's view of a situation in ways that the observing character can't know. Such as Mary was sad or Mary seemed sad or I figured Mary was sad. What the writer has to do is show how this conclusion was drawn. Tears glistened in Mary's eyes. The news of her father's death definitely had an effect.

Dialogue is a good way to give information, but beware having two characters discuss something they already know. This can be boring and make the reader toss the book. There is a way around this and that could be by having the information the writer wants to show become a bit of contention between the pair. Arguments are usually nice places to pop in a bit of information.

Another way is to have the character or characters reminiscence about an event in the past. Take care here not to have this become a single person trip into the past. A lengthy one can pull the reader out of the story. A short sentence can remind the reader of something they had read before, or in the case of a series, of another book. For long memories of the past have two people who were there talk about the event.

When giving information, ash yourself these questions. Is the information absolutely necessary for the reader so he understands the characters and the plot? How does the viewpoint character know this information?


Taryn Kincaid said...

Dialogue (but not the "As you know, Admiral, blah, blah, blah" variety) and character interaction are the best, I think, especially if what's being related has a noticeable effect on another character.
One of the things that drives me most crazy, though, is when the characters just seem to bicker or cover the same ground over and over without any noticeable growth or change.
Eileen Charbonneau used to always say that the best dialogue should do double and triple duty: tell us something we need to know, illuminate the characters, further the story.
Not always easy to remember when you're in the heat of things. But pretty imperative, I guess.
In something I'm working on now, the hero has to tell the heroine about the curse he's under. The first draft or so, it was him just endlessly yammering. Now, he's relating it as if it's in real time.
In the same story, the heroine thinks a lot about an incident that affected her profoundly, but occurred two weeks before the story starts. Now that incident will be in real time, not a memory. May even open the story, actually. Still muddling over that one. But probably will have to be. Won't fit anywhere else.

Janet Lane Walters said...

Mot necessarily speaking of dialogue here but of exposition which is giving information to the reader. I agree about senseless dialogue and I've read a lot of it. I've also read and heard read where people seem to be reading another character's mind.