Exposition by Karen Fainges

I was thinking what I had the most problem with when I am writing, and it’s exposition. Wikipedia has a great article on it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_(literary_technique). Still, the perennial question still seems to be “how much is too much?”

I write fantasy/sci-fi, so, although a lot of my action takes place on Earth, it is not the Earth we see every day. How do I highlight the differences without beating the reader over the head with trivia? One way I have found, is to put the character into an everyday event and have them explain to some one else why it is so confusing for them.  An example might be walking into a library. Looking around at all the books, the character becomes very quiet and withdrawn. When asked why – they detail how books on their world are almost sacred and the sight of so many books available to all is quite a culture shock. This leads to the volatility of the planet, the lack of space, the need to be able to move quickly, and it goes on.

 The other side of the coin is when there is not enough explaination. I have lived with these characters for a long time (I am currently writing the fourth of the series). I tend to take it for granted that some things are known. The assumptions I make just go to prove the old saying about assumptions making an as* out of u and me. I have friends proof them, but to be honest, it’s getting harder and harder to find a friend that does not know the characters and still is willing to read the proofs. Reading aloud helps, as does asking the “who, where, when why” questions, and making sure the answers are in there somewhere. Still, I would love the magic wand that balances the work perfectly between too much and not enough. Anyone got one?


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