Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exposition - Getting the details across without BORING THE READER TO DEATH

Anyone seen Austin Powers? Remember the character Basil Exposition? Michael York played him - very funny role because all he had to do was to give us all the backstory and detailed updates of the plot.

Here's an example from the script:
(on picture phone)
Hello, Austin. This is Basil Exposition, Chief of British Intelligence. You're Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, and you're with Agent Mrs. Kensington. The year is 1967, and you're talking on a picture phone.

We know all that, Exposition.

I just wanted to be extremely clear so that everyone knows what's going on at any given time.

And that, my friends, is Exposition. Now, in a story, some of the biggest killers in reading is when exposition grows TOO much and seems forced in. There are Tom Clancy novels where pages upon pages are devoted to weapons. Nothing about the story. Same thing with even the greats, like The Grapes of Wrath, with tons of detail on corn. This stops the story progress and is the point where 95% of your readers will decide to take a potty break.

So how do you get across the information you need without losing the reader? Check out Dan Brown, who has a TON of exposition to get out there, but does so with a little bit of action, AND a little bit of debate.

Action - that's the key. The late, great Blake Snyder, whose link I've added to the side bar for his Save the Cat book, wrote about "The Pope in the Pool". Basically a distraction gimmick to get the audience to hear exposition without KNOWING that they're hearing exposition. Austin Powers did it in the example above by actually calling it out - YOU'RE GOING TO GET HIT WITH EXPOSITION HERE, BE READY.

Me? Somehow I've got to get the whole basis for the story - Patrick Ferguson nearly shooting George Washington - out there without dropping it in like a lead balloon. Here's what I did.

Two guys appeared in the attic, and Jeff thinks:
"I thought one of them might be Patrick Ferguson – a captain in the British Army. See, Patrick Ferguson almost shot George Washington near here, so I figured he was haunting the place, regretting his decision. If he had, that would’ve been HUGE, changing the whole course of history. I guess you never know when you hold the future of the world in your hands, huh?"

Double whammy here: exposition for exposition's sake - totally inorganic to the story - and TWO: hitting the reader over the head with the theme of the novel. BAD KEVIN! BAD!

So, I'm gonna re-write it to throw the exposition out while the boys are running away from dropping bombs and so on, and leave the theme out. Or maybe try to hide it in there better with a word of advice from Jeff to Ben. We'll see.

Anyway, that's Exposition. Good luck finding a good spot to bury it. Think Jimmy Hoffa.


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