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  • So, a scene with hardly any exposition would consist of dialog and description of people and places? That’s like real life: we look at and listen to and feel the “scene,” where we are, and somebody talks to us and we talk back. There is no running commentary that informs it. I get that, I think, but what makes the whole thing go, if there’s no adrenaline-inducing action? Is it still that our hero wants something, and something else opposes him?

    Victoria, you talk about the hero having “wants” and “needs,” and how the two should conflict. But the need and the want aren’t the story situation, I think? I’m a little confused about this.—Susan Kelly in the comments on 6 Things I Learned from Dashiell Hammett

    Hey, Susan! Yes, you are exactly right: fiction is creating a real-life experience for the reader. You want them to feel as though they’re right there, living the adventure alongside your characters.

    If you look in the Table of Contents of The Art & Craft of Fiction (it’s in the column to the right) you can see the differences between scene and exposition. Yeah, little bits of exposition can be slipped into scenes, but for the most part scene is description, action, and dialog (and, as legendary editor Max Perkins says, dialog is really a form of action). I’ve defined exposition a lot here in the advice column. I you do a search on “exposition” you’ll turn up a whole bunch of stuff.

    And, yes, all story comes down to the needs of the protagonist. That’s why writers and mentors keep saying, “plot grows out of character.” The character’s needs are what put them into their situations—otherwise they have no investment in their story. I wrote The Art & Craft of Story specifically to delve into the myriad wonderful aspects of the connection between characters’ needs and their situations.

    That connection is a fabulous, rich, and complex world, the very heart of writing.





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    The Art & Craft of Story


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"The freshest and most relevant advice you’ll find."Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles, 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, which was 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 Scott 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 his second novel, Memory of Water and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY 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. Read more. . .


TERISA GREEN 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 her to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


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


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