1. angel2016
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    angel2016 Member

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    Having a hard time with exposition

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by angel2016, Jul 13, 2016.

    Yeah, yeah, like everyone else. My problem seems to be opposite, though. My writing is very brief, very concise, and like I think I've mentioned here before, I am so afraid of telling that I have very, very little exposition and background. My two readers have said I need more and I agree.

    So - how do I learn to tell instead of always showing? Strange question, but I feel like I need to do this in order to get a lot of the backstory in. Yes, I'm breaking it up by having characters explain (and not in the "as you know" way) but it's just not enough.

    In other words, help me be wordy!
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I tend to use stationary moments with the character when they're not really doing anything and usually when I want to show time passing. That way I can fit the information into a nice sized paragraph or two and it doesn't have to be a fully fleshed out scene. A good way of hiding the fact that it's not just an infodump or a mass of tell is to make the details important and vivid. I decided to remove a scene and turn it into exposition when I wasn't satisfied with it. I took out the dialogue and made most of the issues with the character internal. An internal dilemma that they were thinking over and remained unresolved. A good way of starting a scene like this is with a link or a trigger. In Dean Kootz's novel Intensity - the mc Chyna is hiding under a bed from a serial killer and starts thinking about her troubled past because of the duel action of hiding under the bed. Creating a link can help you slip in backstory.
     
  3. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    Can you post a few paragraphs of your writing as an example? Obviously one of the sections where you feel you need more exposition...
     
  4. Gazzola
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    Gazzola Member

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    SweetOrbMace, take a look at the Steelheart Sampler (it's free), which has the first five chapters of Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart. Ignore the prologue and start at chapter 1. In the first 8 paragraph's Sanderson mixes the character running through the city with a lot of exposition of the 'tell' kind, which give the background necessary to understand what's going on in the book. It's well done and should serve as an example for you.

    Edit: Even better, here's an extract of that chapter, so you don't have to download to kindle
     
  5. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    Thanks, but my message was for the OP! This is probably more useful to them :)

    I was thinking if the OP posted some of their work it would be easier to see how they can improve.
     
  6. Gazzola
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    Gazzola Member

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    Ops, sorry, I mixed who I should reply to. Saw your name talking about the example and assumed you were to OP
     
  7. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    If I'm understanding you correctly, then it's like your characters are talking inside a blank room, yes?

    Blocking may be your answer. Rather than tagging every line with "John said" and "Mary said", have them interacting with their environment. You'd be amazed at how much you can get across without it feeling infodumpy.

    Observe:

    "Well, are we ready?" John said, "Have we got all the supplies?"
    Mary frowned. "Almost. We've got enough for two weeks' travel, but after that, we're basically dead."
    "Damn." John thought for a moment. "Gary in the city should be able to help out, he owes me a favour."

    So we see John and Mary packing to go somewhere, that much is evident. But there's nothing here that really tells us about WHERE we are, or what's around them. Is this something like the problem you're having? If you use blocking properly, you can get a lot of information across, without having to have big infodumpy paragraphs.

    Compare:



    "Well, are we ready?" John glanced at the row of low wooden crates. Even in the gloom of the caravan's interior, he could tell it wasn't nearly enough to get them across the Great Plains. "Have we got all the supplies?"
    Mary frowned and counted the golden meatrats, scurrying about in their cage before she placed it into the caravan. "Almost. We've got enough for two weeks' travel, but after that, we're basically dead."
    "Damn." John thought for a moment. His eyes traced the stitching of the caravan's canvas roof. A week ago it had been his ship's sail. Since the Drying, he'd not had any use for it. Even still, the deal that Gary had given him had been laughable, and he knew it. "Gary in the city should be able to help out, he owes me a favour."

    So we can see some more of the world that they live in, just on the brief descriptions of their thoughts and actions between sentences. Compare with this, same words, different actions:


    "Well, are we ready?" John tapped the inventory display. The cargo drone had been loading for almost an hour. "Have we got all the supplies?"
    Mary glanced out of the porthole and frowned. "Almost. We've got enough for two weeks' travel, but after that, we're basically dead."
    "Damn." John thought for a moment. If they couldn't keep all of their passengers fed all the way to Centauri, they'd have to dump the passengers at Midbase and run. They'd never get their licence renewed. Unless... "Gary in the city should be able to help out, he owes me a favour."

    Two very different scenarios here, but without a big bunch of infodumpy backstory.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  8. angel2016
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    angel2016 Member

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    No, I actually use blocking, rarely use "said", but that's pretty much the only background I give, because my writing until this point has been so concise (technical writing).

    The excerpt that Gazzola posted is exactly what I want to learn to do.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I, too, would like a sample.
     
  10. angel2016
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    angel2016 Member

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    I'm really hesitant to post a sample because I'm still at that point where I cringe when I read everything I write. Maybe at some point I'll get there!
     
  11. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Oh, we all do that. Go read an interview with your favourite actor; probably eight times out of ten they'll mention that they don't watch their own shows, because they can't bear to watch themselves on screen. Writing is much the same.
     

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