I have a somewhat rare flaw as a writer, and that is my lack of exposition.
WHAT? I hear you gasp, your jaws collectively thudding to the floor. Surely you can’t have too little exposition?
Apparently, you can.
I have long been wary of exposition. I’ve heard the warnings from agents about avoiding an exposition dump at all costs, I have been bored stupid by exposition dumps in novels I’ve read myself (anyone else read The Babysitters Club growing up? Anyone else religiously skip the thirteen pages in every single book explaining each member, their entire backstory and medical history?)
I don’t like exposition. I don’t like reading it, I don’t like writing it. But apparently I go too far. Simon Hall often whipped me senseless (figuratively, obviously) for failing to describe what my characters look like and I regularly “forget” to add scene description.
And agents have agreed. Despite the full manuscript requests I’ve received so far, there has been one unanimous editorial comment: I need to up the exposition. Add to the scene description, add to the protagonists story so you feel their emotion arc.
What has this got to do with Star Trek, I hear you ask?
Hubster International is a sci-fi fan. I’m a HUGE cinema fan. This week, our two hobbies merged when we went to see Star Trek together on the big screen. Now, for another confession: though vaguely aware of it, I’ve never actually seen Star Trek.
I was worried about exposition. This was the third film in the current franchise; were they going to do half an hour of lame ass, boring backstory that I didn’t care to see?
It was BRILLIANT, and a masterclass, via Simon Pegg’s script, in how to use exposition subtly and effectively. The dialogue, action, cinematography and acting throughout gave me everything I needed to know without boring me senseless with background. For example: an exchange between two characters at the start told me a) they used to be in a relationship and b) they were not in a relationship anymore, without once referring to said relationship. It was literally two lines each and talked in the present rather than referring to the past.
It gave me hope that I can do the same in the first few chapters of my novel.
So now I shall go forth, live long and exposite. (I apologise, universally, to Star Trek fans, but I couldn’t help myself.)