How to Build the Exposition
To build an exposition into a story, you first need to decide what you want your readers to know first.
- Do they need background information to follow what’s happening as the story opens, or does the story start right away?
- You also need to decide which characters need to be revealed in the beginning or in the back story.
- Once you know how you want to start, then you need to decide on how.
Secondly, as mentioned previously, you have three methods of building the exposition. Each one has its own style and advantage.
- The flashback or back story is best when you want to start in the middle of a story, as is the flashback or inner monologue.
- A story that begins as it opens is best done with character dialogue or by having the narrator describe the setting.
Lastly, be sure to cover any details that will make the story easy to follow.
- For example, if the time period is in the far past, be sure that you bring that across as you describe the place or actions taking place.
- Mentioning horses or candlelight will help make that known. In this day of texting and social media, readers may be confused if the characters are having trouble communicating immediately. It’s also important to use a lot of descriptive words and specific details so that readers can visualize as they read.
- How does the place affect the story? You need to decide if the location of the story will somehow affect the plot or if it can be a universal type place.
- Your characters’ relationships should be made clear as the story opens and proceeds.
- Writing a character sketch for each and keeping it beside you as you write will help in this part of the writing. If you’re not sure how the characters interact, it will come across in your writing and spoil a good plot.
- Be descriptive, using adjectives and adverbs to describe the scenery, the characters, and the action. Readers should be able to create a picture in their minds.
When to Use Exposition
An exposition is your introduction to the story. One should be used any time you are writing a narrative. It does not need to be long, but the exposition should help readers have some idea of where the characters are and what kind of time period. It should appear near the beginning of the story. If you are writing a mystery, thriller, or suspense story, then you might have the exposition a little later but still somewhere toward the beginning of the story.