Writing

Exposition Excellence: What It Is, How To Use It and Bonus Tips!

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I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with exposition. I try my best not to bore my reader to tears with unimportant information and use more show, don’t tell in my stories. Here’s what I’ve learnt about exposition and how to incorporate it into a story so you and I can use it to our advantage.

What is exposition?

Exposition is to include background information, setting, backstories and plot events within dialogue. It may also be known as ‘show don’t tell’.

Exposition Tips:

  • The number one rule of exposition is that it should benefit the reader.
  • The reader is always interested in the plot first, the exposition is secondary.
  • Present the information in the quickest, most condensed way possible.
  • Start by writing as much exposition in your paragraph and edit most of it in the end.
  • If you are unsure if the dialogue works, read it aloud.
  • Expositions can have character names, jobs, likes, hobbies, dislikes and personality traits.
  • Expositions can help create impressions of your character.
  • Exposition can tell where the character is, what’s happening where they are and what is to come.

How to introduce exposition in a story:

  • Conflict – Take your reader into the thick of action in the story by using exposition. This hooks your reader. You don’t need to reveal all the details of this conflict to your reader.
  • Example:

Angie took a blow to the jaw. This wasn’t the first time she was involved in a bar brawl, but he wasn’t about to lose this time…

  • Dialogue – introduce exposition in your story with dialogue between two characters.
  • Example:

“Whisky neat and make it a double,” said Angie.

“Tough day?” asked the bartender.

“Something like that,” she said. “I’ve gotta finish this drink and get back to it.”

“Your boss must be a slave driver.”

“Yip,” she said. “I’m always doing his dirty work while he gallivants around Europe.”

  • Narration – introduce exposition in the story by narrating it.
  • Example:

“Whisky neat and make it a double,” said Angie.

“Tough day?” asked the bartender.

“Something like that,” she said. “I’ve gotta finish this drink and get back to it.”

“Your boss must be a slave driver.”

Angie downed her drink and placed a crisp bill on the counter. She could have told him about the multitude of times she had to clean up after her boss while he gallivants around Europe, but she wasn’t in the mood.

  • Thoughts– this helps your reader understand your character’s mind-set, especially when it’s central to your story.
  • Example:

I’m tired; absolutely exhausted of this mental and physical abuse at work. The late nights and early mornings, planning and meetings, for what? It’s not as if I’m being noticed. When last did I have a day off or anything to show for all my hard work? To top it all off its winter. I hate Winter. The strong winds and snow make it ten times more difficult to get away. I can’t wait to cuddle on the sofa with a cuppa. Maybe that will happen if I change my job…

  • Background information – this way is great to set the scene and bring key information to your reader quickly.
  • Example:

There was a lot people knew about Angie, but no one dared to ask what she did for a living. She was tattooed with new bruises every other day. Such a shame for a pageant girl, but people in this small town saw her that way regardless of how long ago that was. Angie was different now, tougher. She had to be, after what happened to her.

  • News publications and letters
  • Example:

The Danielville Daily, 28 April, 2017

Reward For Ruby

The popular Danielville jewellery store, Whites has issued a R500 000 reward for any information regarding the break in that occurred last night. Four million rands worth of jewellery was stolen, including the largest ruby in the world. Mr White, a lifelong resident of Danielville is completely devastated as this break in comes a week after the loss of his wife in a fire that is believed to be arson.

Police Chief, James Gordon, speculates that this heist was orchestrated by the Payne Gang. The DVPD will do a thorough investigation of the scene and surveillance footage, before they can be sure.

If you have any information regarding the break in or fire please contact the Danielville Police Department at 057 333 2525.

Exposition is a great way to inject quick bits of vital information to your reader. Do you use exposition in your stories? What’s your favourite way to introduce exposition? Let me know by commenting below!

 

Love and Blessings,

Lindsay Sign Off New

 

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11 thoughts on “Exposition Excellence: What It Is, How To Use It and Bonus Tips!

  1. Some good advice even experienced writers occasionally forget.

    Bad exposition is often referred to as, “As you know, Bob.” It’s that irritating need to have one character fill the readers in on what they don’t know, need to know or not. Usually, we don’t need to know.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is absolutely helpful. I love to write and I’ve gotten back to writing but I’ve never had any formal training. I didn’t realize there were terms to my choices of telling the stories and backgrounds. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this, Lindsay. Hugs. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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