Moving Exposition

Walk&Talk  The Walk and Talk

I just experienced an interesting example of synchronicity: when things suddenly happen together so that they seem linked, but it’s really just coincidence. It feels kind of eerie when that happens, but no matter what they always say, coincidences do happen! My example started when I went to the recent meeting of R-SPEC, where the topic was Revealing Backstory without the Dreaded “Info Dump.”  An info-dump is when an author brings the story to a limping halt to spend a chunk of words telling the reader things the author thinks the reader needs to know but that aren’t actually happening right now, in story time. We talked about various ways to avoid this, including things like creating a flashback that is its own fully-rendered immediate story or giving it to a character in a drunken diatribe. Another technique we mentioned was the Walk and Talk, made famous by the TV show The West Wing. Much of the show centered around witty, intelligent dialogue between the various characters working in the administration of President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen). To avoid having lots of scenes with people just standing and talking, much of this dialogue was filmed as people walked through the halls of the White House. The message here is to have some kind of action going on, even if it’s just people walking, while delivering the exposition. I immediately thought of an early scene in my story where the main character (and the reader) absolutely has to get the beginnings of an explanation about what the hell just happened? One character tells the other, and this is the first plot point that launches the actual story. I started to think about what these characters can be doing besides just talking, and it has to be something that advances the plot in its own right.

Now we get to the synchronicity: Just a couple of days later, as I was thinking through this issue, I watched this week’s episode of CSI: Cyber (hey, I have to give something so techy a try, right?). What jumped out to me was a scene in which the FBI Deputy Director Sifter (Peter MacNicol) and Agent Ryan (Patricia Arquette) are telling each other things they obviously must already know but that have to be explained to the viewer, and they did so while walking from place to place. Now that I’m thinking about this idea, I will no doubt be seeing it everywhere!

So I will take it as a Sign from the Heavens: give those people something to do besides talking! And I’m already seeing it in my head. Another idea that will make things better.

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