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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar for them, 'Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction.'

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Is there an equivalent to exposition in film?@akimoku

    In scriptwriting, exposition is described as “Act II stuff,” more than a quarter of the way in. Exposition as backstory in film, often flashback scene (dreams, memories, etc.) In film, it’s sometimes dialogue, but usually action. Someone finds a old news clipping, overhears conversation, etc. True for prose as well?@AllInky

    Screenwriting or playwriting and fiction use the word “exposition” differently. And this is another reason why exposition is so misunderstood.

    In fiction, exposition is anything that isn’t part of the actual scene. It doesn’t describe what you can see, it doesn’t give an action or recount dialog, it doesn’t even let you feel what the characters feel. It tells information you can’t get from the scene, information you need to follow the plotline, and hopefully in a way that adds to the atmosphere. It “exposes” or illuminates your story.

    In screenplays, exposition is that part of the story that develops the hook into the climax. In fiction we call that development. But screenplays, by their very nature, are all scenes. You can’t get around that. So they don’t need a word specifically for stuff that can’t be cast in scenes. I mean, what would they do with it? Put it down in memos between the screenwriter and director?

    In three-act structure: Act I is the hook of your story, ending in a plot point. Act II is the exposition, or development, of your story, ending in another plot point. And Act III is where the doo-doo really hits the fan.

    Is there an equivalent to literary exposition in film?


    This is voice-over (VO), where the narrator talks over the scenes, illuminating what the audience sees and hears with backstory, commentary, whatever they see fit to throw in the pot. (Not to be confused with VO in animation, which has to be done for dialog or all the little cartoons lip-sync in silence.)

    Screenwriters rarely write VO into their scripts. It weakens the story and draws the audience out of the scenes. Same thing it does in fiction. It also involves either a narrator character or a sound system if you try to use it on the stage. (Shakespeare did it—remember Puck? The ancient Greeks did it—we call that the Greek Chorus.)

    You know when you’ll hear VO in movies? When the movie has been adapted from a novel. And why use it then, even though it weakens your movie? Because the novelist was really good with exposition, and their words are simply too beautiful and profound and illuminating to give up.


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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by PanMacmillan. Read more. . .

LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .

SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .

STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .

ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .

TERISA GREEN, represented by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .

GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .

SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, forthcoming from Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I'm working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .

LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez' debut novel, The Shoebox, and her up-coming The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .

JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .

LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .

JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .

In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.