PDA

View Full Version : Good exposition


hollyfan
04-16-2010, 05:52 PM
Whatís the best way to handle good exposition in a third person limited novel do you think? Get in and get out fast is the plan, isnít it guys? Keep it short and as riveting as possible?

How do you when itís best to fall into expository prose? How do you know when itís best to come out of it?

I've read so much advice on novel writing that tells me to keep it short and sweet, and then I open up my Daniel Steel/Stephen King novels and find huge chunks of exposition.

What's the best way to handle this do you think?

DeleyanLee
04-16-2010, 05:58 PM
Whatís the best way to handle good exposition in a third person limited novel do you think? Get in and get out fast is the plan, isnít it guys? Keep it short and as riveting as possible?

How do you when itís best to fall into expository prose? How do you know when itís best to come out of it?

I've read so much advice on novel writing that tells me to keep it short and sweet, and then I open up my Daniel Steel/Stephen King novels and find huge chunks of exposition.

What's the best way to handle this do you think?

Who says that "get in and get out fast" fits every writing style and story? Obviously by your author examples (Danielle Steele & Stephen King), that's not always true.

Find out what works for you. Stick with it. And if "common writing advice" says otherwise, ignore it.

It's as easy and as hard as that.

Lady Ice
04-16-2010, 06:13 PM
Whatís the best way to handle good exposition in a third person limited novel do you think? Get in and get out fast is the plan, isnít it guys? Keep it short and as riveting as possible?

How do you when itís best to fall into expository prose? How do you know when itís best to come out of it?

I've read so much advice on novel writing that tells me to keep it short and sweet, and then I open up my Daniel Steel/Stephen King novels and find huge chunks of exposition.

What's the best way to handle this do you think?

Style. Write as if you are trying to seduce the reader; as long as your writing remains engaging and doesn't get too complacent, they'll lap it up. Third person is an opportunity to let your style shine through.

lucidzfl
04-16-2010, 06:41 PM
The difference with King is that his exposition doesn't feel like exposition. Even in his info dumps, there's emotion and pacing to it that most writers cannot accomplish when trying to serve huge plates of knowledge over.

In addition, the exposition King gives is integral to the plot and characters. MOST new writers exposit crap that is not integral, its just stuff that the writer knows about from the world building and wants to show off.

ChaosTitan
04-16-2010, 06:52 PM
Agree with everyone here. Exposition is part of your narrative voice. If your POV character is the type to notice and relate things quickly and effectively, write it like that. If your POV character has a deeper, more layers voice and wants to meander a bit through the exposition, write it like that.

I believe you posted in another thread that this is your first novel, so it's likely that as a writer, you're still finding your own style and voice. And that's fine.

Use Her Name
04-16-2010, 07:15 PM
I think it would have to do with how you pace your novel. Each of those paragraphs take a certain (relative) time to read and they can snag a novel with a fast style. If you write in a long, languid style, then the expository writing can go longer. I've seen it go on for ten pages, but I try to keep it to a page or two. Also, you could be doing several pace situations in your novel, or have a slower beginning than end. If you are doing a kind of "car chase" scene, it should have limited exposition. A scene where the character is in a relaxed state remembering the past or something can get a few more paragraphs.

kaitie
04-16-2010, 07:22 PM
Agree with everyone here. Exposition is part of your narrative voice. If your POV character is the type to notice and relate things quickly and effectively, write it like that. If your POV character has a deeper, more layers voice and wants to meander a bit through the exposition, write it like that.

I believe you posted in another thread that this is your first novel, so it's likely that as a writer, you're still finding your own style and voice. And that's fine.

This is basically what I was going to say. It all depends on the voice you're going for. My last story was really sparse in terms of exposition. My current one has a completely different narrator who has a tendency to be wordy and tangential. It can depend on the genre you're writing and how fast the story is supposed to move. Really, there's just no right answer.

Stunted
04-16-2010, 07:26 PM
My general rule is to make it feel like thinking. As long as I do that, it tends to work.

Here and there, though, I'll use this other technique--here, I'll throw down some stuff from my last novel to explain. Two seamstresses, a mother and a daughter, are arguing about who should go take a prince's measurements.

"It's a delicate thing, and--"
"But there'll be stairs."
Roslin's mother had bad knees.

I don't do this often, but when I do, I think it works pretty well. If anyone has a theory about why it works (or doesn't) I'd like to hear it.

hollyfan
04-18-2010, 04:50 PM
Fantastic advice guys! You have been very very helpful and I'm very very grateful.

Lady Ice
04-18-2010, 05:33 PM
My general rule is to make it feel like thinking. As long as I do that, it tends to work.

Here and there, though, I'll use this other technique--here, I'll throw down some stuff from my last novel to explain. Two seamstresses, a mother and a daughter, are arguing about who should go take a prince's measurements.

"It's a delicate thing, and--"
"But there'll be stairs."
Roslin's mother had bad knees.

I don't do this often, but when I do, I think it works pretty well. If anyone has a theory about why it works (or doesn't) I'd like to hear it.

That's an info-dump. Info-dumps are not just long paragraphs; anything where you've just inserted the fact instead of weaving it in is a dump.

The info dump test:
Pick a piece of information that you need to convey. Let's say, Billy and Josie moved to their house 3 years ago- they used to live in America. Luckily Newcastle is where her parents live.

Do not do this:
Billy and Josie moved from America. That was 3 years ago. They now live in Newcastle. Their relatives live in Newcastle.'

Never just take a fact and dump it into the story. It's jerky because it's not part of the scene- it's something the writer has interrupted to tell us. Try and put it in the character's voice:

'It was 3 years ago, Billy! Get over it! Newcastle is our home now.'
Billy shook his head.
'Newcastle will never be our home. It's your parents' home, and maybe even your home, but it sure as hell isn't mine.' America would always be home to him and however much he tried, he just didn't belong here.

Whilst the literary merit of the example is relatively low, it's conveyed 5 pieces of information and showed Billy's inability to adjust to England.

Lydia Sharp
04-18-2010, 06:11 PM
I've written full scenes and full chapters with little to no dialogue. Your word choice, sentence structure, and the relevance of the events you're relaying, all determine the pacing of it and whether or not it's going to bore the reader. It can be (and has been) done effectively.

There are no concrete answers to the questions you asked. It varies from author to author, and even from project to project of the same author. The best thing to do is keep writing (practice) and keep reading (analyze).

Bufty
04-18-2010, 06:18 PM
Steel and King have huge established followings and can get away with big blocks of exposition because publishers know they will sell no matter how much exposition there is.

Not so, for you and me.

You really should concentrate upon reading, and finishing your first novel.

I'm just waiting for you to post you are becoming completely confused about everything. :Hug2:

What’s the best way to handle good exposition in a third person limited novel do you think? Get in and get out fast is the plan, isn’t it guys? Keep it short and as riveting as possible?

How do you when it’s best to fall into expository prose? How do you know when it’s best to come out of it?

I've read so much advice on novel writing that tells me to keep it short and sweet, and then I open up my Daniel Steel/Stephen King novels and find huge chunks of exposition.

What's the best way to handle this do you think?

proxy
04-19-2010, 01:29 AM
Many people on here hate exposition. While I am light years away from being an expert, I question that mindset due to the many best-selling, debut novels I keep seeing that contain infodumps in healthy amounts. The first chapter of The Line by Teri Hall is almost entirely backstory; it's her first novel and is selling well. You can find the excerpt online to have a look at how she does it. As others have said, just try to make it engaging and relevant. Describe something that would make the reader turn the page before using it

hollyfan
04-22-2010, 02:20 PM
So should I only provide exposition that my charcater is currently thinking in 3rd person limited? I mean, my character isn't just gonna start suddenly thinking about where she was brought up and all that, in the places where I feel this information needs to be added if you know what I mean? You can jump out and provide information like this can't you? Even when the character isn't thinking about them?

Dr.Gonzo
04-22-2010, 04:36 PM
You can do whatever you like, hollyfan. However, I think it always works better if there is a reason. Why 'jump out' when you can just as easily give your characters a catalyst to be thinking of this info?

Lady Ice
04-22-2010, 10:20 PM
Many people on here hate exposition.

Well, that's pretty stupid of them because they will inevitably be doing exposition. Exposition sets up the world of the story. If you didn't do any, no one would know what on earth was going on.

Exposition doesn't necessarily need to be in prose though. You can work it into dialogue IF YOU'RE SUBTLE.

HConn
04-23-2010, 07:58 PM
My recommendation is this: Find a debut novel you like, in a similar genre and a similar voice, and study carefully how the author handled exposition. How many lines long was it? How far into the book was it? What came just before and just after?

Actual real-world evidence is much more useful than writing advice.

The most important thing to remember is this: if you can be interesting, you can write anything. Dialog. Exposition. Anything. Make the reader want to read it before you give it to them, and you're golden.

Cliff Face
04-24-2010, 02:19 PM
Write as if you are trying to seduce the reader

You've seduced me. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to add something to the idea of putting your exposition in dialogue. Try writing a script. All you have is actions and dialogue at your disposal (like: (PICKS UP COFFEE) You know, you're just like your pig-headed mother. (DRINKS) - not the best example, but it serves my point - you've just acknowledged that the mother is pig-headed, and probably so is the 'other' character who isn't speaking, and you did it in dialogue) .

I myself have written about 4 books (well, 3 and 1 almost finished and 1 just started...) and only now that I've been writing a script have I gotten over my phobia of putting exposition in dialogue... I had that phobia from book 1, because I didn't feel it would ring true for the characters - it didn't seem realistic for every other sentence to be revealing something that I thought was relevant... okay, I'm not explaining it right, but in other words, though I didn't know the word 'exposition' at that point, I was afraid that putting exposition in dialogue wouldn't be true to the story or the characters, and that it would make for a bad read (for some reason I thought putting in exposition in dialogue meant ALWAYS using exposition in dialogue...).

But with this script, I've had to use exposition in dialogue - and you know what? It rings true to the characters and has given me an extra tool in my writing arsenal. I've also had to learn to "trust the reader" which is good advice too - because sometimes in the script, I can't put words in the characters' mouths which explains directly what's going on or what's relevant - you have to allude to the fact and trust that people will 'get' it. I now watch Friends (yay, I'm a geek) and see that whenever it comes to sexual or toilet humour, or at least in most cases, putting the words directly out there would void their PG rating and make it for adults more than anyone else, so they allude to things, and you ALWAYS get the joke anyway because of the way they do it, assuming you know enough about adult type things to know what they're alluding to... again, I don't say this very well, but I think you get my meaning. I'm a dirty bastard, so I understand those alluded dirty jokes.

And after typing all this, I realise that even though I had a phobia about using exposition in dialogue right from the get go of my first novel, I now realise that I used it a reasonable amount anyway, for important conversations. Chances are you already know how to weave exposition in during dialogue (if you've ever written an important conversation, you've probably done so :)) - but let's not forget that you are writing a novel and not a script, so you do in fact have the opportunity and the right to use exposition in any way you see fit, so long as it's understandable.

I don't know quite why I'm still rambling, but this thread has made a light go on above my head: I now have more knowledge over what I'm doing, and what I can do, and why to do it. So I guess my ramble was an attempt to make that light go on over everybody else's heads too (if they needed it).

:)

Lady Ice
04-25-2010, 01:27 AM
I think exposition can be done in dialogue too, because it is believable. The characters know their past and sometimes naturally refer to it: 'You were never this crazy when you were with Mary.' So we know that the other character has dated/married/had a relationship with someone called Mary. That information is interesting because immediately you wonder who Mary was and what she was like.