A. Victoria Mixon, Editor
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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

    You know, as hard as I’ve tried to get a good understanding of exposition I don’t really have a clue. I’ve begun to think of it as anything that isn’t dialog, action or description. Is that correct?—Jeffrey Russell

    Pretty much, Jeffrey. In a nutshell.

    People tend to get confused about exposition because of its relationship to expository writing. Expository writing is explanatory. Nonfiction. Without characters.

    They also get confused about complex and much-bandied terms like exposition because of the plethora of ‘experts’ floating around the Internet these days contradicting each other.

    That’s why I rely on my fundamental authority, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which defines exposition as that which “explains.” Because it does. It explains things you can’t perceive from being in the fictional scene. It exposes them.

    Now, does that make exposition—which is neither dialog nor description nor action—the same thing as narrative? Well, no, it doesn’t. The OED defines narrative as a “series of events,” which of course can easily be scenes.

    Pretty much anything but dialog is narrative. That’s the narrator telling the story. Dialog is the characters telling their story, which is why it’s set into quotation marks or italics to distinguish it from the narrator’s version of things. (Although you could build a case for dialog being the narrator narrating what they heard the characters say. . .)

    But the narrator narrates. And, when they feel the moment is ripe, the narrator also sometimes interferes.

    “Guys, guys,” the narrator says. “You need to understand what’s below the surface, here.” And then they expose it: they tell you what’s below the surface of the scene they’ve been narrating, what’s below the dialog, action, and description, what’s beyond tactile experience.

    And that telling, Jeffrey, is an aspect of narrative called exposition.


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    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

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2 Responses to “Expositing”

  1. Luc Prévost said on

    I’m new to all this but am I right to compare exposition to a voice over in a movie?

    The VO, in bad or weak pieces of work, often will act as brick & mortar to give sense to the lack of info contained in the action and dialog.

  2. Victoria Mixon said on

    Yes, you’re right.

    Bad or weak pieces of work should simply not be made. A well-designed movie shows what’s going on with the action, setting, and dialog—there’s no actual need for exposition in film.


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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.