Add Emotion and Stir Vigorously

Here's a tip based on a psychological quirk: we tend to remember best the information that comes to us surrounded by highly charged emotion. That's why so many people can remember precisely where they were and what they were doing when they first learned of the assassination of President Kennedy and how they spent their very first date.

Applied to exposition, this means that otherwise undigesti-ble chunks of explanation will move faster, and be absorbed more easily, if they're put in a highly emotional context.

If you have some character really desperate for this information, the reader will tend to catch the infection and really want to know too. If you position the information in such a way that it has a strong and immediate emotional impact on somebody in the scene, it will become part of that scene's frame-work—hardly exposition at all. Or you can immerse your exposition in melodrama—whole situations which are emotionally charged—as I'll explain more in Chapter 7.

So now you know all the basic rules of effective exposition-cookery: move it fast, don't let it pile up too much in any one place, subordinate it to a strongly moving plot, and dip it in emotion whenever possible. Then, whenever you can, cut it out.

Become a Plot Surgeon

When you've got one whole first draft in hand, one of your first chores in beginning your second draft should be going back and cutting every scrap of exposition you find you can possibly do without.

There's an ancientjoke that runs: Want to lose tenpounds of ugly fat? Cut offyour head. Well, don't cut off your story's head. But in second draft, cut absolutely everything your story can do without—and that especially includes exposition.

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