Screenwriter John August discusses the perils of exposition on his terrific screenwriting blog.
Always ask yourself: Would the character actually say this, or is he
only saying it because you need the audience to know some fact or
detail? If the answer is the latter, you’re writing exposition and not
That’s not good.
The advice he gives applies as much to writing novels as it does to writing scripts.
- Show the information, rather than having a character say it.
- Try to follow a natural line of thought: A to B to C.
- Simplify. The reader may not need to know everything.
- Keep your hero active in learning the information, rather than passively listening.
- Balance natural speech patterns with efficiency. People rarely say things as concisely as they could.
Avoiding exposition is hard, especially in plot-dependent stories.
But it’s one of the first things a reader notices, so spend the time to
deal with it.