October 16, 2003

exposition rethought

After posting the other day about my writerly stage fright, I went on to write two new pages. Apparently this blog has magic powers. Either that, or I just needed to say it aloud (so to speak) to exorcise the fear.

The problem wasnít just writing ahead into the great unknown, though. It was something else too. I had a chunk of information to impart in the next scene. I had this idea that the character with the information would ask the female lead to meet her so they could talk, and that during the course of this conversation, she could both cry on Female Leadís shoulder and regurgitate exposition. This works. Sort of. In a clunky, obvious, potboiler way. Which is precisely the tone Iíve been working so hard to avoid for the past two hundred plus pages. So I stopped, not knowing why. Not until I talked it through with Dan. He asked what the conflict was in the scene. I said I didnít know.

Aha.

Dan suggested I instead have the Exposition Character talk to the Male Lead, who doesnít like her. Presto, conflict.

What Iíve come to realize is that the conflict in my novel is primarily internal and unspoken. Unlike my screenplays, where everything tended to be up front and in the open, this is interior, subtextual tension. If a man is confronted with a woman he doesnít like and she says something that reveals her own personal pain, heís going to feel a bittersweet pang, right? Right. Internal conflict. Interesting tension. Bingo. I've got my tone back.

Sometimes itís just a matter of trying the oblique approach. That, and asking your spouse for help.

Posted by Tamar at October 16, 2003 10:57 PM