Being a Better Writer: When Exposition Stops Being Entertaining

This post was originally written and posted February 2nd, 2015, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Welcome back everyone after another fun weekend! Anyone do anything awesome? I did! I spent my Saturday experiencing the sights and sounds of Comic-con, spending lots of money on said Comic-con (seriously, swag!) and then getting killed in an unexpected, but much enjoyed, run-in with Borderlands‘s own Krieg.

Thankfully, being an author, my budget is pretty small and limited, but getting respawned at the nearest New-U station wasn’t too wallet breaking. Now, my wallet slightly lighter and my goodie-bag full, I’m back once again, and ready to start another week off with a discussion on writing.

This week’s topic is one that comes from a reader and, to be honest, it’s a pretty darn good question, because it’s one concerning exposition. This is an area that has flummoxed not just young writers from around the world and across time, but even experienced ones, leading to many heads meeting desks. It’s a conundrum that pops up even in well-received works, be they movies, books, or any other medium with a plot. This conundrum? Well, I’ll let our seeker do their own explaining first. Here’s what they asked:

What do you do, when you’re writing, and the story really needs to get this information across in order to move the plot forward, but the narrative or dialogue to convey this information to the reader is soooooo boring that you don’t want to write it and you wouldn’t want to read it, either?

I’m sure that “think of a less boring way to convey the information” is a technically correct answer, but I hope you have some guidance in this area.

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Being a Better Writer: Character Motivations

Why do your characters do what they do?

It seems like a simple question. And, likewise, a simple answer. Why do they do what they do? Because they want to.

Okay, but why?

Character motivation is one of those topics that seems pretty straightforward. You have a character, and you want them to do something, so they need a reason to do it, right?

Well … hopefully, yes. But in practice, is that what’s going on in our writing? Does our character really have motivation … or are we just putting them in a position to do something by necessity, or where they’ll go along with the flow?

Yes, this is a basic topic. But it’s one that feels justified simply because it can become a major stumbling block for newer writers. Often I’ve picked up a story about some characters setting out on a globe-trotting adventure only to wonder halfway through the opening chapter “Okay, but why?” because the author was so keen on getting to the adventure that they neglected to put much work into explaining how the character got there in the first place. Which isn’t to say that the motive may not have been there, just that the author neglected to mention it or explain it fully.

Right, so two possible problems, there. The first is that the author isn’t giving their characters enough motivation. The second is that even when they are, they aren’t explaining them adequately. So, what can we do about that?

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