Exposition is one those bad words in writing.
‘Too much exposition.’
‘Exposition heavy and filled with info dumps.’
But exposition is something that is unavoidable in works of literature. I like to think of exposition like a baby, you’re kind of stuck with it and if you don’t teach it properly, it’s gonna end up pretty shitty.
What is exposition?
Exposition is how you introduce a reader to EVERYTHING: to your characters, the setting, the plot, to each and every scene.
Exposition is everywhere, both as the reader and characters uncover new ideas and plot points, but also as a way of explaining what the characters already know.
How to do exposition right?
- Show don’t tell:- I hate show don’t tell, partly because I’m shit at it but also because it’s treated as the holy grail of advice, but there is a reason for that. A reader does not want to read a dry essay of the weather patterns of your fantasy world, instead you need to describe the sky, the clothing people wear, how the characters feel: are they hot or cold?
- Your Characters have lives:- this is something I see in a lot of debut novels, writer seem to forget that their main characters have a life outside of their plot. They have friends, hobbies, goals and you need to include them to give your character three dimensions.
- Use it sparingly:- Only explain the bare minimum, if it really just needs to be stated, then just state it.
- Where is it relevant?:- many authors use prologues and/or their first chapters to spew as much info as possible at the readers but of course, if the information is important, then there will be a much better point to add in such info. Add it in as late as possible, rather than earlier.
- Keep it short and simple:- Limit exposition to between one and three sentences per page and as short as you can.
But of course, the best way to learn how to implement exposition is by practicing, which I assure you, you can’t do that while reading this.