From Dreaming to Publishing: Exposition



This post is part of the “From Dreaming to Publishing” series.

  • Introduce a new character with just enough physical description to picture him/her
  • Don’t stop the story to tell all about him/her
  • It’s better to show characters slowly and naturaly, with scenes and through interaction with other characters
  • Flashbacks may introduce the character’s past but too many of them and your timeline gets hard to follow
  • Instead of having the narrator describe the character, let the other characters do it, naturaly, with dialogue and action
  • If you present everything as conclusions or summaries you’ll have passive (and bored) readers
  • Don’t tell everything right away (characters, landscapes, cultures, …); instead dive head first and let the reader discover and feel
  • It’s good if the readers don’t have all the answers, that’s what keeps them reading


  • How much time do you spend describing a character or place? Could you show that with action or dialogue further ahead?
  • What about characters’ past history? Could you trim it?
  • What do your readers really need to know? When?
  • Would the characters really talk that if you weren’t doing exposition?

book cover

This post is a personal summary of a chapter from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which I read when preparing for NaNoWriMo. It warns amateur writers for the common pitfalls and provides solutions with examples. I’m sure you’ll find it useful too.