Tag Archives: Prevail Press

Exposition Wears Concrete Shoes

We’ve all read the books that are so exposition-heavy that you feel exhausted getting to the end of the chapter… if your read that long.

Yet exposition is necessary. Sometimes you need to know what came before, why a setting is significant, or just explaining how something works or the story doesn’t make sense.

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Ned would read every word of a Tom Clancy novel.

Exposition differs from description in that it’s required information that is apart from the story, but needs to be understood for the sake of the story.

There are several ways to handle exposition, and a few “rules.”

Rule 1: Give it to the reader when they need it and not before.

Rule 2: Give them only what they need to know (be strategic and be concise).

Rule 3: Make sure it IS needed. If Tesla’s intimate love a pigeon isn’t required knowledge to his invention of cell-phone technology, don’t include it in exposition (it may be included at some point for other reasons).

Rule 4: Do NOT include it in dialog unless it’s necessary. Remember, effective dialog between people includes not saying what the other person knows. “As you know, Kit, Shakespeare was a frustrated actor who had a lisp and a hunched back.” If Kit already knows it, the speaker would not be informing him of it. If Kit doesn’t know it, only include it in dialog only if Kit must know it (see below).

Rule 5: Hide it if you can.

The ways to handle exposition:

  • With a spoonful of sugar. Or saccharine. In this method, you break the exposition up into chunks, adorned with comedy or conflict. For example: You have to explain the process of mixing an explosive. Rather than just tell us in a block, your lab assistant assures you (the main character) that he knows how to do this. Problem is, he doesn’t, much to your horror and anger, you must walk him through the process. This can be funny or serious. The attention is on the characters and the process is explained almost by accident.
  • With concrete shoes. Tom Clancy is the master of this. Want to know how to build an atomic bomb? He sets aside characters and just lays it out. Most of us skip over it, engineers eat it with a spoon.
  • With a spoonful of concrete. This is a mixture of the first two. Your main character remembers/reviews/discovers the exposition. Kirk recalled the first time he’d been to this planet and suppressed a roguish grin. Risa was a pleasure planet, and they knew their business. Rita, the famed astrophysicist was a guest… I mistook her for a working girl. Rita had discovered the transwarp signature of the Curator’s race, the ancient beings who had….
    You get the idea.

You need to decide how to handle it by analyzing the pace of your story. Can it handle a block of exposition without grinding the pace to a halt? Can it be embedded and parsed slowly?

How do you handle exposition?

Why I Do What I Do

I blame Bonnie. And a whole lot of other people I care about.Prevail Press

Writing should never be a singular pursuit. Oh, sure, the actual writing part is man-to-machine, but zeitgeist of writing should, for the sanity of all, be a group endeavor. For this reason, I have founded several writing groups. A writing group is a bunch of writers encouraging and possibly critiquing one another, not everyone working on the same project.

Currently, I’m a member of the Writing Block (so named because several of the founding members lived on the same block and who doesn’t like a play on words?). We’ve been together for—ready?—15 YEARS! That’s longer than primary school.

Some members were novelist, bloggers, a poet for a while, and people with the vague notion they should be writers. Up until a few years ago, several had written books and a couple used a vanity press to publish theirs (and still have boxes of books in their garages), I published mine through my private publishing company, and none had gone the traditional publisher route.

Then Bonnie Manning Anderson finished Always Look for the Magic and began shopping it around. Let me tell you something about this book. It’s fabulous! A middle-grade book, it transported me to Depression Era America into the lives of wonderful kids battling to help one of them be a magician. Adventure abounds. She sent it out and sent it out, and no bites. Heartbreaking.

I attended a church Leadership Meeting and over lunch discussed all the books so many people were writing and found myself frustrated for their future plight. In todays publishing world, you must have a platform or a radical idea that can sell millions of books to secure a contract. There are three options: Traditional publishing (almost impossible to obtain), self-publishing (difficult but not impossible), or vanity press (expensive and not nearly as helpful as they claim to be).

We needed an alternative and I was inspired to create it. My publishing company had been private, for my ghostwriting clients only, but what if I opened it up to anyone? What were the important points?

  • Keep the cost low and recoverable (as a ghostwriter, I never took clients who couldn’t make up the cost with book sales; I’d do the same thing here).
    • Solution: Author only pays for the time of the provider, so book design, cover design, editing, administration, etc. I wouldn’t take a dime of royalty until all costs were recovered.
  • Take only quality books to preserve the brand.
    • Solution: Create an acceptance review board to determine quality.
  • Avoid any appearance of profiteering.
    • Solution: I won’t lock authors into using our services. If they have others who can do the work, as long as I approve, that’s good enough.
  • Make it as attractive to authors as I can.
    • Solution: After cost recovery, Prevail Press gets 10% of the royalty and the author gets the rest (typically 60% of retail cost). No printing minimums, only have printed what you need. Amazon makes this easy. Author owns copyright and can withdraw any time they want to.
  • Ensure Integrity:
    • Solution: Establish a Board of Directors who can oversee finance, advise me on operations and hold me accountable.
  • What about Marketing?
    • Solution: This is a tough one, but by developing a network of authors, we can help promote one another’s books. Much will still be on the author, but we can help get the word out.

Our first book was Bonnie Manning Anderson’s Always Look for the Magic, and several more after that. I hope many more to follow.

That’s your introduction to Prevail Press. The rest of the month I’ll focus on the author journey and writing tips. Your questions are welcome!

Find us at http://www.prevailpress.com.