I am learning so much from my new critique groups. Yup, as in plural, like three.
Why on earth am I in three critique groups? Well, they all bring something alive for me during the session, be it one person’s flare for similes, another’s dead reckoning of grammar, or, the fact that they write far better than I ever will — but I’m hoping that some of their polish will rub off on me!
During one recent critique, I told a woman that she was using too much exposition. Well ouch! Be careful what you say in critique. She took it really well, but confessed that although she’d heard that before, she still didn’t recognize an exposition when it hit her in the face. I then was truly embarrassed not to be able to define the darn thing. Exposition is like good art; I know it when I see it.
No? Too lazy an answer? I thought so too, so out I went in search of the Great Exposition Explanation.
Exposition: ex·po·si·tion noun ˌek-spə-ˈzi-shən
1: a setting forth of the meaning or purpose (as of a writing)
2a : discourse or an example of it designed to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand
b (1) : the first part of a musical composition in sonata form in which the thematic material of the movement is presented (2) : the opening section of a fugue
3: a public exhibition or show
— ex·po·si·tion·al adjective
See exposition defined for English-language learners »
See exposition defined for kids »
Examples of EXPOSITION
The subject requires some exposition.
a clear exposition of his ideas
the great Paris Exposition of 1899
This is not an easy book, and the reader may find the layers of detail challenging. There are long expositions of the knotty tangles of monarchical lineage, and the necessary chronicle of historical events occasionally consumes the novel’s narrative drive. —Lucy Lethbridge, Commonweal, 23 Oct. 2009
And of course it was the last line that nailed the definition for me. “Knotty tangles, necessary chronicle…occasionally consumes the novel’s narrative drive.” Yup. That’s Exposition for you.
So how do you turn exposition into descriptive wonderment?
Take the following.
Tad was twelve. Nan is nine. Tad is older than Nan. Nan likes popsicles. Tad used to get secret popsicles from his father.
And then (to borrow from my previous post) reimagine it so that you show, not tell and…
Tad leaned over Nan’s shoulder. He swiped one finger along the edge of her popsicle to catch the drip before it hit her fingers.
“Hey,” Nan protested. “You got twelve-year-old cooties all over my treat.”
“Well, it’s better than having sticky baby fingers.” He wiped his sticky hand on the back of his sister’s Disney on Ice t-shirt.
“Moooooooom!” Nan squealed.
He didn’t like popsicles as much now as he did when he was five. Dad used to sneak one to him to coax him into quietness while Nan was taking her nap. They tasted even better because Mom didn’t know, and Nan didn’t get any. Dad stopped bribing Tad when Nan was two and stopped taking naps.
Well, Mom still didn’t know. She was always at work, and Dad did the grocery shopping. Tad went over, opened the freezer and pulled out the last red popsicle. Tearing open the package, he took a bite off the tip and savored the cold tang as it blasted his tongue. He guessed they were still pretty good.