Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Story chapter 15: Exposition

(This is from the chapter I originally read on December 19th.)

The screenwriter's and filmmaker's maxim is "Show don't tell".

You've got to get story details out there, but when you do, make sure you dramatise exposition to either

1) Further conflict, or
2) convey information

(in that order of priority)

"Show" (in "Show don't tell") means truthful behaviour. Would your character really do that, or are you just putting it in so we understand the story?

  1. Never include anything the audience can reasonably and easily assume has happened.
  2. Never pass on exposition unless the missing fact would cause confusion.
"You do not keep the audience's interest by giving it information, but by withholding information."

Save the best info till last.

"Table dusting" refers to unmotivated exposition.

Your backstory can be used to create turning points. (Remember how important they are!)

"We can turn scenes only one of two ways: on action or on revelation."

Powerful revelations come from the BACKSTORY - previous significant events in the lives of the characters that the writer can reveal at critical moments to create Turning Points.

Dramatise flashbacks. Make each flashback a mini-drama. Don't bring in a flashback until you've created in the audience the need and desire to know.

Dream sequences
Exposition in a ball gown. McKee doesn't think much of them.

Lazy, avoid. (McKee don't think much o'them either!)

Voiceover narration
He really doesn't like this.

"If I were to strip the voiceover out of my screenplay, would the story still be well-told?"

If the answer is yes, keep it in.

Use narration as counterpoint. A character's point of view giving you a different idea of what's going on than what seems to be going on.

A good example of exposition: Oliver Stone's JFK. Haven't seen that yet.


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