#A-Z Challenge: E is for Exposition

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

E is for Exposition

spongebob

Exposition is important in a manuscript – it gives us vital background information about a character’s past, their likes and dislikes, their beliefs and motivations as well as historical context and details about prior events. But the crucial thing about exposition is that it needs to be handled very carefully – it’s the way that you do it that matters.

You need to ‘show’ your reader information, not simply ‘tell’ them. This way you ‘expose’ the back story without being boring. And some of the best ways to do this are through dialogue, conflict, revealing a character’s thoughts and using physical props such as newspapers, letters and emails.

For example, have your characters talk to each other  about events that have happened, what those events meant to them, how they felt and reacted to those events.  But a word of warning. You need your dialogue to be realistic. Don’t use it as a way of dumping information. And make sure your characters never tell each other things they already know.

Writers are often tempted to tell their readers too much – to spoon-feed information. They don’t seem to trust the reader to put the elements together themselves and to draw conclusions. Don’t be that sort of writer – don’t patronise your reader. Remember you don’t have to explain everything – and you don’t have to explain it all at one.

Any thoughts on exposition? Do share them by leaving a comment below.

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16 comments

  1. This is when I’m SO pleased I don’t write novels…but exposition as a poet is in my view important, I don’t believe in poetry that hides its meaning too assiduously, after all writing is about communication which requires a receiver as well as a giver. The giving of information in a poem requires skill as well, particularly when you are trying to tell someone about an animal or its situation, which is what I do. Otherwise it’s just a list. Thank you for commenting on my blog! ~Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another quick reminder post for the #Challenge to help a fellow writer like me. Thanks for all the hard work it takes to participate. In busy April, hope there is time to come and visit me. I’ll be in the garden, but will hear the gate open.

    Liked by 1 person

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