Nurse Ratchett of Scene Writing: Or, When and Where to Use Exposition

In Classes, Craft on May 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I’m working with a wonderful new editing client whose work is so good and so exciting I look forward to it with the same joy as I do my own writing. She’s the kind of talented where I feel more like a stage hand than the director, just moving her props around and making sure she remembers her lines.

She has, however, likened my tendency to insist on scenes over summary to Nurse Ratchett, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And you know what? I take it as a compliment.

The inspiration for my book, Make a Scene, came from working on hundreds of first draft manuscripts when I used to edit for a service. These books were brimming with potential that was almost always lost inside heavy exposition and  adjectives and adverbs that took shortcuts to developing characters and building action. I saw it over and over and over again.

So, is there room for summary, for exposition in a good novel?

Of course there’s room. In small, elegant, threading sentences in and around your scenes:

Moments of reflection (interior monologue) that give us a sense of a character’s voice.

Strategically placed imagery that sets a mood.

Getting your characters from one place to another without a whole lot of unnecessary language.

You can learn more about the “uses and perils” of exposition, and deepen your mastery of the scene FREE, by registering for my June, Revise for Publication class ( ). With it, you get a free class if you register today: Fiction’s Magic Ingredient, Part Two, which begins TOMORROW, May 3rd!


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