E – Exposition : Authors’ Tips A to Z of writing
Dears readers and authors,
In this series of ‘Authors’ Tips – A to Z of Writing‘, where eight of us – Devika Fernando, Preethi Venugopala, Paromita Goswami, Adite Banerjie, Reet Singh, Sudesna Ghosh, Saiswaroopa Iyer and I – will post on various writing-related topics with the topic corresponding to the Alphabet of the Week. Complete list is at the end of this post.
Today under the Authors’ Tips A to Z of writing series, week for alphabet E, I have chosen to write on Exposition.
There are four rhetorical modes or modes of discourse; narration, argumentation, description, and exposition.
Exposition typically means giving information to the readers. While in non-fiction exposition is simply disseminating the information to the readers, but in fiction, one has to tackle it a bit subtly since straightforward exposition at times becomes boring for the readers. But before doing anything else let’s understand the term ‘exposition’.
‘Exposition’ in fiction or ‘narrative exposition’ refers to the background information in a story, to establish the context. Examples could be, character’s backstory, information about the setting, historical context.
Exposition can be accomplished in primarily two ways: Overt exposition, and Indirect exposition also known as ‘incluing’. Overt exposition is just an information dump, whereas Indirect exposition is subtly releasing information into the narrative—exposing the story world to the readers using dialogues, setting, backstory etc.
Let’s take an example: One can directly say that ‘Nina is a scholar’. But if the narrative says that ‘Using the published research papers, Nina corrected her thesis.’ The sentence now gives the same information and keeps the reader hooked on the environment too. The idea is to gently clue-in the readers to the characters and their world.
Overt exposition is sometimes used in fantasy or science fiction genre since the readers do anticipate and look forward to reading about a totally new world, so one can get away with it.
In conclusion, indirect exposition is the key to building an imaginative, creative and ever-expanding narrative which keeps the readers hooked.
All the best!