Thursday, November 17, 2022

Narrative Expo—what?

a woman's silhouette as she stands on a rocky outcropping facing a pine forest and distant, bare mountain peak
I will show you a picture 
and tell you how soft and dark the pine forest looked from above

When I pick up a book, or listen to a book, I want to be sucked into the story. I want to experience what the characters are experiencing—see what they’re seeing and feel what they’re feeling. So, what does that have to do with narrative exposition?

This week we’re talking about telling versus showing and when is narrative exposition necessary. If you’re not one of those technical writers, like me, this kind of jargon may float over your head as superfluous. Anyway, here’s the definition:

Narrative Exposition: is when background information is dropped into the story to catch the reader up on necessary details

Every story needs to give the reader background information. If you’re reading a mystery/thriller you usually learn it as the character is searching for the truth. If you’re cracking open a sci-fi you’ll likely get a few paragraphs describing some aspect of the advanced world you find yourself in, just enough to ground you. And if you’re digging into a fantasy you might learn about the background from a helpful healer or a guard who likes to talk. 

As Charissa mentioned in her Sunday post, every story needs what it needs. Show enough detail to settle your reader into the story. And, as Jeffe’s agent says, sometimes you need to tell your reader in a line or two to get the info out so you can move on and wax poetic. 

If you’re not sure if you’re writing is too heavy on the telling, find a bookish friend to give it a read! I highly suggest finding someone that reads in the genre you write in, otherwise what is common and expected could be flagged as confusing. But after all is said and done, don’t be afraid. Just write. Don’t get hung up on writing-rules because it’s always easier to fix a bunch of showing or telling than it is to fix a blank page. 

Happy writing! 

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