Exposition in a Story — 5 Tips to Help You Write a Good Exposition

What is the Exposition of a Story?

There are various literary devices that can be used to make a story more engaging and captivating. One of the most commonly used devices is exposition. Exposition in a story can be defined as the relay of vital information concerning a story’s character or setting usually in the form of narration.

What this means is that the information isn’t really meant to add any dramatic element to the story’s plot, rather, it just passes across supplementary details to the readers. So you may as well refer to exposition as some kind of info dump.

Use of Exposition in a Story

Exposition can be a creative tool that is used by a writer to add more contexts to the plot of a story. Whether it is used on a character, a location, or the conflict of a plot, it often helps to serve the following purposes:

World Building

World building can be explained as the thorough description of a story’s setting. It is a crucial literary device that helps add authenticity to the plot of a story and also breathes life into the story. Basically, it functions as a creative spark that assists readers in accurately picturing every physical element of the story.

Without world building, the visual impact of a literary piece is non-existent. One way to incorporate world building into your story is through exposition. Many classic books in the Fantasy genres like The Lord of the Rings series and A Song of Ice and Fire series aptly make use of exposition to achieve their world building goals.

Exposition in a Story

Character Backstory

Another thing you can accomplish when you use an exposition in a story is shedding more light on the backstory of a character. This helps your readers to understand a character’s mannerism as well as the dynamics of the character’s relationship with other important supporting characters.

A backstory, though not necessary at times, can be quite important to both the main conflict of the story as well as the resolution. With a properly crafted exposition, you can sort out a character’s backstory in just a few pages of your literary piece.

Foreshadowing

Another critical use of exposition in a story is as a foreshadowing device that helps maintain the balance in a plot. Foreshadowing can be defined as the subtle inclusion of a plot-hint in a story before the story’s main conflict is resolved.

It basically functions has some kind of prophecy device that foresees the occurrence of a major event in a story. Ideally, when an event in a story is properly foreshadowed, the plot-hint isn’t noticed by the reader until the main conflict unravels. This is the proper execution of a foreshadowing device.

You can use an exposition to foreshadow a conflict or an important event in your story. But as rightly pointed out above, the plot-hint must be included subtly so that it isn’t recognized until the crucial part of the plot begins to unravel.

5 Tips that will help you write a good exposition in a story

Follow the 5 tips briefly explained below to write an exposition that will serve its intended purpose:

  1. Do not separate your exposition from the plot

This is a common mistake many writers make when writing an exposition in various works of literature. When you’re writing an exposition on a character or a setting, it is wise for you to incorporate elements of the plot into it.

It doesn’t matter if you intend to dedicate a few pages of the story to the exposition. Make sure the plot isn’t just thrown away; rather, it is used as a vital reference point to validate the exposition.

  1. Don’t make it unnecessarily long

Remember that the exposition in a story is just a tiny fragment of the story’s plot so don’t spend several pages writing one unless it is necessary.

Your readers will quickly lose interest if your story deviates from the plot for too long. This is why you shouldn’t just incorporate plot elements into the exposition, you should also keep the exposition as short as possible.

  1. Your exposition should serve a purpose with regards to the plot

This is an important tip a lot of writers simply fail to follow. You just can’t write an exposition for the sake of it. Even if you intend to use it to develop a backstory for your main character or setting, it should also tie-in with the plot of the story to be valuable to your readers.

Average readers are easily frustrated when the plot of a story is put on hold for the sake of an exposition. Even if you’re using it for characterization, ensure that the plot isn’t interrupted.

  1. Exposition is best written near the beginning of the story

It isn’t a must to start your story with an exposition; it is, however, safer to place it closer to the beginning of the story rather than the middle or worse, the end.

It is highly distracting for a reader who is immersed in the plot of the story to suddenly encounter an expository chapter deep in the book. This is a major literary sin that can make readers drop your book. So unless your exposition somehow ties-in to that point of the story, it’s best you move it back to the opening chapters.

  1. Don’t use exposition as a tool to increase word-count

Your readers aren’t dumb; they will know when you use an exposition to pad your story so as meet a word-count target.  So, in essence, just never do this.

It is much better to use subplots as a way to make your story longer than writing a baseless exposition that achieves no goal.

Conclusion

Writing an exposition in a story is a literary practice that is used by the most skilled authors to flesh out characters and carry out immersive world building. If you aren’t using it to achieve either of these purposes, then don’t write one at all.

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