Today's Original Fic Tip: Handing Exposition (aka Infodump) - Get in and get out fast
I find the most daunting aspect of writing original fic is trying figuring out what information to share with the reader - and how much information to share with the reader. I thought I would spend the next few days sharing tips that I've found helpful in dealing with exposition.
The following is excerpts from this article.
Exposition is the fancy term for anything which isn’t a part of the story you’re telling, but is nevertheless important to explain what’s happening or put the events into context.
Imagine you’re writing a novel set in an advertising agency. The exposition would be all those facts you include that explain how ad agencies work. The facts may serve no dramatic purpose, but they are important to add authenticity and understanding to the novel.
Or suppose you’re writing a science fiction novel set on an entirely new planet. The exposition here would involve explaining the planet’s history, its geography, its language and customs, and so on.
...Exposition is a little like description. Both are important, but both are potentially unwelcome distractions.
How come? Because when you stop to describe something or explain something, the action stops. And that’s not good!...
Exposition might be necessary to explain the events, but the events themselves – the plot, in other words – must always come first. So here’s the key to handling exposition…
Get in and get out fast.
In other words, present whatever facts you need to get across in as small a space as possible – a line or two here, a small paragraph there. Then return to the action.
One way to work in these snippets of background information is to incorporate them into the dialogue. Like here, for example…“Staying long?” asked the receptionist.Another way is to work the same information into the prose, probably in the form of interior monologue (i.e. the character’s thoughts)…
=“Two days, maybe three,” said Frank. “I’ve got to be back in London for my daughter’s birthday.”
“Family man, huh?”
“Two boys and a girl,” he said. “And a wife somewhere in France sleeping with a kid half her age.”
“Staying long?” asked the receptionist.
“Two days, maybe three,” said Frank. “I’ve got to be back in London for my daughter’s birthday.”
“Family man, huh?”
Frank took his key and started up the stairs. He could have told the lady that he had two boys and a girl back at home who were missing their daddy like crazy, and a wife somewhere in France sleeping with a kid half her age, but he really wasn’t feeling chatty right now.
In either case, you’ve managed to get across some important background information without significantly disrupting the action.
Now go forth and write!