How do You Solve the Problem of Exposition in Your Writing?

“Exposition is a device for introducing characters, to provide setting, for creating tone, to explain ideas, to analyze background. Exposition should be immediately related to the event that causes its presence. The subject should be relevant to the circumstances, otherwise it’s a distraction that does not contribute.” -Leonard Bishop, Dare to Be a Great Writer

We all know enough about writing to understand that in today’s market, we need to keep exposition should to a minimum. Despite that, we often have to support our premises with facts or explain the reasoning behind that premise.

For my novel Light Bringer, I created a discussion group for people who believed in conspiracies. While each argued for his or pet conspiracy theory, sometimes quite humorously, I was able to expose an alternate view of history without having one character giving a long and boring lecture. The group also functioned as a cast to pull from whenever I needed a character to play a bit part.

For Daughter Am I, I created a character who loved to lecture. Though perhaps he told too much, it did go to character.

For A Spark of Heavenly Fire and More Deaths Than One, I had characters go in search of the information because I thought that if characters wanted the information badly enough, readers would also want the information and hence tolerate the intrusion of fact.

So how do you solve the problem of exposition? Do you dump it in all at once to get it over with? Do you parcel it out a bit at a time? Do you have one character tell another? Do you have a character seek it out? Do they read it somewhere, such as in an article or online? And how do you make it interesting for the reader?

My writing discussion group No Whine, Just Champagne on will exchange ideas about exposition during our Live Discussion on Thursday, October 16 at 9:00pm ET. Hope to see you there!

5 Responses to “How do You Solve the Problem of Exposition in Your Writing?”

  1. Dr. Tom Bibey Says:

    I don’t have exposition in mine ’cause it is ‘G’ rated.

  2. K.S. Clay Says:

    I’ve never really thought about exposition as separate from any other part of my stories. For the most part I think I weave it in among the action, a bit here, another bit there. The exception would be at the end of some scenes where the character has to think through what’s been happening or the facts that they know in order to come to a decision. When that happens I try to make sure what’s talked about has an obvious connection to the rest of the story and that the decision the character’s making is an important one so the reader actually cares about what’s going on and will put up with it.
    Actually, just a note but I was reading Jim Butcher’s novel Fool Moon (the second in his urban fantasy series The Dresden Files) and I came across a great scene where the character, a wizard and private detective, has a dream where he talks to himself and discusses all the issues that have come up in the novel up to that point. It sounds weird but it’s actually a fun scene because you get to imagine him talking to himself and there’s a lot of humor tossed in among examination of the clues and other issues.

  3. Bertram Says:

    KS. — you are welcome to join us for the live discussion on gather. You always have just good insights into writing.

  4. K.S. Clay Says:

    Thanks. I just sent a request to join the group.

  5. Bertram Says:

    K.S., I’m glad you decided to join. We don’t always see things the same way, which makes for an interesting discussion. And as I said, you have good insights into writing; you will be a great addition to the group. Hope to see you Thursday, October 23 at 9:00pm ET.

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