All Women's Talk

Properly Exposing

By MaryAn

In search of a page to post in response to the one page gauntlet, I skimmed some of my screenwriting efforts from the past year and -- well -- ouch. Those screenplays are collecting dust bunnies under the bed for a reason. More painful than recognizing the flawed writing is realizing that a year from now, I will likely have the same yuck-in-my-gut reaction to what I am working on today.

I don't know which parts read the worst, but I'm thinking it's a tie between my dead-on dialogue and poorly crafted exposition. Did I say it was poor? I meant tragic, calamitous, pitiable, and shockingly lamentable.

Okay, poor.

So, I'm on a quest for the keys to crafting a screenplay without insulting the intelligence of the reader by using exposition that couldn't be more offensively obvious if you pointed it out with flashing neon lights.

I have nothing against neon, mind you. It can be useful in pointing the way to ATM machines, pool halls, nail salons, tanning beds, tattoo parlors, slot machines, the exits of smoke filled aircraft, and -- beer. Oh, and anyone who has ever consumed two full bottles of Snapple green tea while driving four hours to Austin can ballyhoo the merits of neon signs over restroom doors in crowded convenience stores.

Neon has its place. Exposition, too, has its place. So why is it that some exposition works and some sounds like dialogue from a Dick and Jane early reader? Could it be that exposition often uses neon signs where better craftsmanship would require only a small blinking light? Or, do we sometimes use so many blinking lights that it spoils the view of everything else?

Karl Iglesias has an article about exposition in this month's Creative Screenwriting Magazine. My magazine arrives in the mailbox weeks after everyone gets theirs (and the mail lady wonders why I chase her down?), so I haven't gotten to read it yet but I'm thinking that on this quest to better write and better understand exposition, that article is the place to start.

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