Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Exposition: What Is It? What To Do With It?

In the book Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell , he talks about exposition, otherwise known as The Information Dump!

Bell has three rules for handling exposition.
  1. Act first, explain later. Get the character moving at the beginning of your story. A reader will follow a character without demanding to know more if they are engaged with the character and what the character is doing. You can divulge information bit by bit as you go along.

  2. When you explain, do the iceberg. Don't tell everything you know right away. Give 10%, just enough to help the reader know what is going on and then save the 90% for later on in the story. Reveal the rest a little at a time.

  3. Setting information inside confrontation. Sometimes the best way to reveal information is to set it in the midst of great conflict. A character's thoughts or even dialogue are great ways to toss information to the reader.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is full of excellent information, told in a way that I can understand and grasp. It is definitely one of my go-to books!

Bell's iceberg rule is a favorite of mine. Icebergs are deceptive and reveal little of the true nature of the beast. Catastrophe happens before you know it and you find yourself sinking fast.This could prove invaluable to our characters. We should keep much of the back story hidden, giving just enough to hint at something mysterious and quite possibly dangerous. I feel an evil laugh coming on.

Strangely enough, I find that I am like an iceberg at times. Just letting a little of the real me show, because I am afraid of what others might really think if they see what's below the surface. I wonder how many of us are like that. I wonder how many of our characters are like that.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing for us to only let the real us show? How about for our characters? What do you think?

p.s. I just realized I totally took off on a tangent with the Iceberg theory. We were talking about backstory, weren't we? ;)

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This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

19 comments:

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So fundamental but so so good, Sher! Great reminders. Love James Scott Bell!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Sherinda!! I love the way your thoughts went on this post! So true about the whole iceberg analogy!

I also loved this book by JSB. Really helpful. Should probably go back and revisit it to make sure I still remember his tips!

Have a great day!
Sue

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Amy, he is such a great tool box for writers. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Susan, sometimes I feel like a dog getting distracted by the squirrels in the movie UP. "SQUIRREL!" My thoughts get jumbled and one idea takes me to another, etc, etc. Hopefully, they make sense every once in awhile. :)

Angie said...

I love the visual of an iceberg. So, so true! And to act before tell also helps me not feel set up by the author. I started a novel (and didn't finish) where the author told why the character was the way they were, then proceeded to play it out in the scene. It felt forced. Thanks for this post, Sherrinda!!

RATS SMITH said...

thanks for the opportunity to enter the contest. Loved your hints for a successful writer..however, dont think they would help me any at all, so I'll just keep reading the wonderful words of all you great awesome fantastic authors! God bless you!!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Sherrinda, great reminders about back story. I'm re-reading this book right now. And doing the exercises this time. :) It's worth a second read.

And, I think the iceberg analogy works in real life too. It's better not to give TMI (too much info), especially when you've just met someone. :) Sharing small portions of who I am is good. I'd scare people away otherwise! :)

Thanks!

Ashley Clark said...

I LOVE that book. In fact, I want to order his workshop session from the most recent conference but keep forgetting. And I especially love getting information out through conflict/arguments! It feels much more organic, and sometimes the characters say things that surprise even me as I'm writing!

Angie said...

Ash, I went to the workshop and it was great!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Angie, that would feel like I was reading the same thing over and over! Ugh...it makes you wonder how some stories get published!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Jeanne, I haven't done the exercises, but I'm sure it would really make the lessons sink in. Maybe this summer when I have a little more time. ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Ashley, I always forget about ordering the audios of the workshop lessons at conferences. I'm sure there is a HUGE selection of fantastic resources from conferences. I need to build up a writing fund. lol

Mary Vee said...

I went to the workshop too, Ang. I learned so much from him. His speaking style is as engaging as his books. So much to learn!

The principles of backstory are finally sinking in for me. I see it in other writer's works…which is a first step. Now, I need to see it in mine. The final step is to not do it wrong in the first place!

Pepper said...

Loved this, Sherrinda!
Such great info and the iceberg idea is phenomenal...but I like number one too.
Act first, explain later.
Yep...I like that one :-)

Casey said...

Isn't JSB's books awesome?! I learn so much when I read his work. And I love your bullet points. Get er done when it comes to story and then go back and fill the rest in later. Good stuff. :)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Giving information inside confrontation - that's a GREAT tip! I love it!

And the iceberg one is fantastic too. I think you're right, we all do this in real life to some extent, and like Jeanne said, that's probably a good thing to a point! We've probably all met the slightly needy/ socially awkward person who gives way too much personal info way too soon. Better for people to WANT to know first and gradually uncover more as they get to know you. Raise the questions first and then gradually give the answers is how I think of it! So much better than giving answers when we have no questions. Great post Sher!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Actually the more I read over that last bit the less sense it makes. Lol! It made sense in my head anyway. ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper,Mary, and Casey, I'm sure you all have heard him in person, with all the conferences you have been to, right? :) That would be awesome!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Karen, you always make sense!!! Always! And you always have a way of stating your thoughts with great verbage. ;)