Lena Hoppe reports:
"I'm sure I'm not the only one who, as a reader, feels somewhat weary when faced with several pages of historical background, political explanations or geographical descriptions. Similarly, it can be very tedious to write such stretches of background information. Getting to that point in a novel, I sometimes end up procrastinating for days - not because I don't know what to write, but because it seems so very boring. And if it is boring to write, it will most likely be boring to read, too. Of course there are different reading tastes and writing styles, but for those who tend to feel as daunted as I do when faced with writing exposition, here are my seven suggestions to make exposition less boring...Don't begin your story with long descriptions of the past three decades of wars and feuds in your fantasy realm...However, don't wait until the very end either. The things that need explaining will pile up and you will be stuck with huge amounts of exposition that are hard to digest when your readers should be swept up in the climax of the story...To avoid having too much exposition at the same time, lay the groundwork early on. Slip in little hints and details whenever you can. If you know you will need to explain political developments and campaigns or delve into the war-torn history of a region of your world, make sure your readers are already familiar with the most important names and events. They could be referred to in [everyday] conversations. Make up expressions and proverbs that tell your reader something about these leaders, tyrants or battles. If you set things up well, you won't have as much to explain when you get to the 'Sit down and I'll tell you what it's all about' moment...Consider having different parts of your exposition told by different characters and in different situations. You could even have your exposition be split up by a sudden explosion or the frequent interruptions of a child demanding playmates, chocolate and assistance in battling monsters underneath its bed. If you spread your exposition over several scenes, your readers will be faced with digestible chunks, rather than a long section that the less patient reader might be tempted to skip...[D]on't tell the reader everything you know. Most likely they won't need (or want) to know all the details of the past two or three centuries of the spice trade or what all the months and days are called in each of your eight carefully constructed languages. Instead, sit down and make a list of things that are actually necessary in order to follow your plot. Only put in the things that add to your story and leave out what is merely burdening it with unnecessary information. You can always save those bits for a sequel!...If your exposition comes from the mouths and minds of your characters, be sure that those characters are likely to know what they are talking about...Think about your characters and their personalities. If you set one up as a history enthusiast or the daughter of a spymaster or a known gossiper, your readers will buy it if they end up explaining things that others don't know about. Also keep in mind that people rarely tell each other what they already know. Don't have your characters have conversations about things that are old news to them for the reader's benefit. Instead, consider introducing a character who is an outsider and needs to be told - just like the reader...Instead of just telling your reader what she needs to know, find other ways of slipping in all the necessary information...Instead of simply narrating recent events, have a herald walk past the open window of the inn where your characters are about to have lunch, announcing the most recent news. You can either let it go uncommented - purely for the reader's information - or add immediate[ly] the reactions of your characters and perhaps have it lead directly to whatever happens next. If you need to define a concept - be it religious, scientific or philosophical - that everyone in your story is familiar with, have a character browse through books in a library and come across such a definition. Don't quote entire pages; just sneak in a sentence here and a title there...If you do have to have a scene in which a large amount of exposition takes place, say a scene in which one character explains events that none of the others have witnessed, shift the focus away from the exposition and towards something more interesting...If you can explain some of your exposition by showing something that happens, rather than simply giving an account of the events, do so. Perhaps you need less exposition than you think. In a nutshell, don't be scared of exposition. If you are a little bit creative, you can use it to advance your character development or add depth to a scene, while at the same time telling your readers all they need to know."
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