Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exposition: One tool the author has to tell a story

Exposition is used in two ways when talking about fiction.

First, it is the set-up at the beginning of the plot arc. Where we learn the basic who, what, when, and where. This is a necessary part of plot to ground your reader.

I'm going to address the second way exposition is used in a story. This is when an author gives background information, description of characters or setting, or summarizes events that have already happened. It can happen at any point in the story. This is a necessary, key element of writing and one of the three tools an author has to tell his or her story, along with scene and dialogue.

A good author does this without slowing down the forward progress of the plot. That is, the exposition makes sense in the context of the scene (or action) of the story and does not trip up the reader or bore him or her.
She turned her blue gaze toward him.
Here, we get the fact that she has blue eyes in the context of the action. That's the best way to give description.

One mistake amateur writers make is including "infodumps" in their stories. These are paragraphs of exposition which trip up the reader and slow the forward progress of the plot. They take the reader out of the action. As a result, these infodumps can result in readers setting aside a book and giving up on a story.

Green Room
Green Room by Donna McNeely
One particular example of this is what I call "fantasy room." Young writers often use their fiction as a means to live out their own dreams and fantasies. Hence, their characters are about their age, if not a little older, and have things the writers wish they had, like perfect, awesome bedrooms. Young writers can spend a page describing a room: the bedding, the wall color, the drapes, the toys, the electronics... Everything you know a young writer would want in his or her own room. This is too much!

Sprinkling in a few relevant details is great, and necessary. It grounds the reader in setting and helps him or her envision the world the author is creating. But these details need to be intrinsic to the plot, and can't stop the forward momentum of the action. Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of the story, that the bedspread is green? Ask yourself that before including the detail in your story.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Requisite Thanksgiving Blog Post

So it's Thursday, it's Thanksgiving... I feel that calls for thirteen things. Here are thirteen things I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Thursday.

  1. Alliteration.
  2. My husband who worked with me on my days off this week to build a new coop for my chickens.
  3. Yellow Dog, who is the stray that lives among the weeds and rubble of the vacant lot next door. No one can catch him, he won't let me get within ten feet of him, but he is our first line of defense! Right now he's standing sentry at the front gate, facing the street, ready to attach any bicycles or cars that dare threaten the block.
  4. My own dogs, Zato and Hamlet. They are getting on and years, but still make a good team in home protection, plate cleaning, and snuggles.
  5. Fashion inspiration at five a.m. I now know what to where to opening day at the track today.
  6. This flippin' weather. It's been outstanding.
  7. Winter break is less than a month away.
  8. Hot tea.
  9. An east facing front porch in winter.
  10. Work, work, and more work.
  11. My readers, if any are still out there. I promise to finish and publish something soon. Really.
  12. My friends, family, and coworkers. Their kindness, generosity, and good cheer constantly amaze me!
  13. Whatever is coming next!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my students, family, and friends at BCA! I am truly grateful for having such a great work family. I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day.