1. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good exposition examples

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hubardo, Jun 27, 2015.

    I was going to Netflix myself to sleep then decided on audiobook. YouTube found this



    Then I was like "that's a bunch of fuckin TELLING what IS THIS." Then I realized it was exposition. THEN, I realized I'm shit as exposition and can't really distinguish between it and telling. Probably depends on function. And so now I wanna look at more examples of when -- beginning, middle, end? -- it is good. And, how it is good. Because it should probably flow and not feel forced, like "oh look the author needed to tell me some shit because they were too uncreative to show me the backstory or context through something more interesting."

    Help, WF. Enlighten me and the others who don't get it.
     
  2. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really is about finding your voice. Tell the reader what you want them to know; show them what you want them to see.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Telling is not opposite to or different from exposition, nor is it the same as or aligned with. Exposition can easily contain both tell and show.

    Think of it as levels of magnitude:

    Tell vs. show is a concept that comes into play at the very small level, at the level of individual words and the structure of a sentence.
    Exposition vs. Dialogue and/or play-by-play development of the story is at a higher, larger level.

    There is aways confusion with show v. tell - what it is, what it isn't, what it encompasses, what it doesn't - because these terms have specific meaning as literary devices and also common general meanings and there is overlap that blurs the edges.
     
  4. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nonetheless, showing is just applied telling.

    "His eyes widened, and his hands shook." I'm telling you what he is doing, but by reading in between the lines you infer that he is scared, and that's the difference.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And this is what I mean by common use of these terms. From this take on the meaning of telling, everything between the covers of every novel is telling, thus all terms of reference lose meaning and function.
     
  6. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. Showing is just a means of description by telling, and that's what I imply by saying that you should tell the reader what you want them to know, and show them what you want them to see. It is a crucial narrative difference, but making showing out to be something other than what it is intellectually dishonest.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think anyone is attempting to be "intellectually dishonest", least of all me as regards the use and meaning of signifiers. Showing vs. telling is a function of syntax. Exposition vs everything that's not exposition is a function of larger structures. The OP is asking to understand the differences between these terms when they are come across. Brushing the OP's question aside as a non sequitur is dismissive.
     
  8. james82
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    james82 Member

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    I'm more of a screenwriter so I look for examples of good exposition in screenplays themselves,
    and one of the best examples that I always praise and explain to aspiring writers is from the
    "The Terminator", whereas the director of the film in James Cameron who also wrote the script,
    mixed the exposition with the action.

    In other words, if anyone remembers the character of Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future who is
    sent back through time to protect Sarah Conner, he is the one who has to tell both Sarah and the audience
    about everything that's to come -- the nuclear war, her unborn son's leadership among the resistance,
    Skynet, the Terminator and it's mission to end her life, etc < This is a motherload of exposition,
    and exposition usually kills a movie/story in it's tracks, but Cameron mixed the exposition with the action.
    Reese's story is told while on the move, during car chases, shootouts, while hiding in a parking lot,
    screeching around corners, then another car chase, and so on. < This allows for him to not sit around in say
    a ten minute dialogue scene and become boring, but to effectively tell the audience what
    they need to know while so much is happening around them. This keeps us engaged all the
    way through. Very clever on Cameron's part and this is something that could apply to
    any form of writing -- short stories, novellas, etc..

    > Mix the exposition with the action <
     
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  9. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where's them examples! :p
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's nothing wrong with telling - it's pretty powerful when used appropriately. As always, it's about finding out when it's appropriate to use, and that comes with experience. Telling is harder to write well, so I suppose partly it's also to do with skill. In general it's good for summaries - think of lines like, "It's better to have loved and lost than to never love at all." Famous line, powerful, packs a punch - and there's no showing at all. I find telling most poignant when used at the end to sum up or express a particularly intricate point that's already partly been shown - perhaps voicing the very thing that you've already put into your reader's mind and not given them the words to express, and then in the "telling" right at the end, you give them the words, the exact, perfect words to express that emotion or thought you've planted in your reader. It's something to mull over, for your reader to taste and think about, and it's like a release from silence. The same way how some people who aren't good at expressing themselves are grateful when someone voices their feelings for them and gives them the words they need, to finally be understood.

    Or something like that anyway :D
     
  11. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends what you consider exposition, but here's a paragraph near the beginning of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:

    The Ministry of Truth contained, as it was said, three thousand rooms above the ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and fine arts. The Ministry of Peace,which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Sorry got no examples. But that H.G. Wells' story is over 197 years old. Writing has come along way since then.
    To me the difference between good exposition and telling is pretty simple. It's technique, skill and what suits the story.

    Telling is not letting the reader figure anything out as a scene is occurring. Exposition is setting the reader up with information they need to know so that certain scenes will make sense. For instance if a forty-five year old woman comes home and finds her husband in bed with another woman at the beginning of a story it's a surprise. But if there is exposition beforehand to show that this forty-five year old woman is about to lose her job as anchor woman because she's considered too old, and has no idea how she'll compete to find a new job - then finding her husband in bed with another woman takes a whole new angle. Especially if the woman is young. For me exposition is a quick way of shaping perception of events.
     
  13. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My favorite exposition of all time would have to be Chapter 2 of John Scalzi's Old Man's War. The protagonist has just signed up for the space military, is riding a space elevator up from Earth, and his interaction with other recruits shows:

    1) There has been a nuclear war that India lost. One of the recruits is angry that the "brownies" and "dot heads" have the easiest time getting permission to colonize other planets while the American "winners" are only allowed to leave the Earth if they join the military and put their lives on the line to protect the Indian "losers."

    2) The space elevator violates the known laws of physics and engineering. One of the recruits is a former high school physics teacher who explains all of the technical reasons why the "Beanstalk" shouldn't be safe to use, but that it has nonetheless worked for over a century without explanation.

    The teacher believes that the Beanstalk is supposed to be as much a symbol of intimidation as anything else: the space-colonizing organization that built it must have used technology learned from aliens, and since Earth scientists can't replicate the technology yet, therefor Earth governments have to do what the Colonial Union tell them to do instead of the other way around.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2015
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  14. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Exposition is just stuff for authors who don't know their characters yet. Everything an author wants to say or do can be done in a simple house with simple characters and nothing to explain other than, "they were in an apartment" or "he was his best friend." The deepest and most moving parts of a story are what the characters do and say. Any exposition should be right to the point and should be said and done so quick that the reader forgets it immediately after they've read, heard or seen it.
     
  15. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    "The Stolen Body" is a science fiction short story by H. G. Wells that was originally published in The Strand Magazine (November 1898)

    I make that 117 years.
     
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  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is obviously nonsense.

    I don't feel like wasting my time explaining to @drifter265, but if anyone else is actually thinking about believing this silliness, let me know and we can have a more in-depth discussion.
     
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  17. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Without exposition, there would be no depth to the characters, and no empathy, so no "moving parts".
     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree with what you're responding to, but I disagree with this, too. It sounds like you're saying that character dialogue, actions, and thoughts have no contribution to character depth and empathy.
     
  19. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    All you mentioned is part of what I would define as exposition.
     
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  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Okay, you got me - math isn't my best subject. :rolleyes:
    Either way it's pretty old. Not to stay it's not good for a discussion but for contrast I'd rather something more currently written be brought up.
     
  21. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    God you guys are nice. I love you too.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait. In that case, what isn't exposition? What's your definition of exposition?
     
  23. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine: "information about the story's world/history - either on the macro level or the micro - that the author imparts to the audience so that we can better understand where the characters' decisions come from."
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    So it sounds like you wouldn't agree that dialogue is exposition?
     
  25. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    :confused:

    If the characters' dialogue reveals information that we - the audience - didn't have before, then the author has exposited that information through dialogue.
     

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