Exposition (narrative)

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For other uses, see Exposition (disambiguation).

Narrative exposition, or simply exposition, is the insertion of important background information within a story; for example, information about the setting, characters' backstories, prior plot events, historical context, etc.[1] In a specifically literary context, exposition appears in the form of expository writing embedded within the narrative. Exposition is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with description, argumentation, and narration, as elucidated by Alexander Bain and John Genung.[2] Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms, and each has its own purpose and conventions. There are several ways to accomplish exposition.


Incluing is a technique of worldbuilding in which the reader is gradually exposed to background information about the world in which a story is set. The idea is to clue the readers into the world the author is building without them being aware of it. Incluing can be done in a number of ways: through dialogues, flashbacks, character's thoughts,[3] background details, in-universe media,[4] or the narrator telling a backstory.[3] The word incluing is attributed to fantasy and science fiction author Jo Walton.[5] She defined it as "the process of scattering information seamlessly through the text, as opposed to stopping the story to impart the information."[6] "Information dump" is the term given for overt exposition, which writers want to avoid.[7][8] In an idiot lecture, characters tell each other information they certainly are already aware of.[9] Writers are advised to avoid writing dialogues beginning with "As you know...".[10][11][12]

See also


  1. Kaplan SAT Subject Test: Literature 2009-2010 Edition. Kaplan Publishing. 2009. p. 60. ISBN 1419552619. 
  2. Smith, Carlota S. (2003). Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts. Cambridge University Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0521781695. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dibell, Ansen (1988). Plot. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-303-3.  *Kernen, Robert (1999). Building Better Plots. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books. p. 51. ISBN 0-89879-903-1. 
  4. Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-58297-393-7. 
  5. Michelle Bottorff (2008-06-11). "rec.arts.sf.composition Frequently Asked Questions". Lshelby.com. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  6. "papersky: Thud: Half a Crown & Incluing". Papersky.livejournal.com. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  7. Bell, James Scott (22 September 2004). Write Great Fiction - Plot & Structure. Writer's Digest Books. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-58297-684-6. 
  8. =http://www.screenplayology.com/content-sections/screenplay-form-content/3-3/
  9. John Ashmead; Darrell Schweitzer; George H. Scithers (1982). Constructing scientifiction & fantasy. TSR Hobbies. p. 24. 
  10. Kempton (2004). Write Great Fiction - Dialogue. F+W Media. p. 190. ISBN 1582972893. 
  11. Rogow (1991). FutureSpeak: a fan's guide to the language of science fiction. Paragon House. p. 160. ISBN 1557783470. 
  12. http://www.fiction-writers-mentor.com/info-dumping.html