Necessary Exposition?



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  • Necessary Exposition?

    I'm looking for some recommendations on how sometimes there must be an expository scene to fill the audience in on an important part of the story, and how to handle it. For example, I have a prophetic legend in my story that the protag needs to learn about, since he is mistaken as a savior-type.

    Currently it's done in an exchange between the protag and a sage-like character who knows of the prophecy because his life has been directly affected by it.

    I understand and preach the show, don't tell mantra, but I feel in this instance that it would slow down the story a lot to SHOW everything.

    The Indy/Army guys in the lecture hall scene comes to mind in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's ALL EXPOSITION, but it gives the audience a chance to catch up after the initial action. I feel my scene comes right at a time when the audience needs to 'catch up' in between heavier action scenes. Indy basically "teaches" the army guys about the ark, but in effect, he's teaching us. (and himself about what's to come).

    Just wanted some thoughts on ways to do a little more SHOWING in telling a legend to the protag... anyone?

  • #2
    That's the way to do it. The RAIDERS example is exactly right. Give the characters a motivation to reveal the information in the scene. You don't need to show what they are talking about. But you should be able to show why the information is important to the characters (Indy is an archeologist and would love to find the Ark; the Army guys don't want Hitler to get it and need Indy to get it first). Show the characters' reactions to the information, their attitudes toward it, toward the thing or person or people that they are talking about. Show how it is going to push them forward in the story.


    • #3
      If you feel the scene is too static, give the characters some kind of activity. They could be wandering through a marketplace, building something, making dinner, climbing a mountain -- whatever you can think of. It doesn't have to relate directly to what is being told but it will add energy to the scene and keep it from being two talking heads.

      You can also go the complete opposite way if it's something very important and have your protag sit rivetted while the old sage tells his story. Just make sure it's a rivetting story.


      • #4
        Re: How's this?

        The old man slides away and reveals an inscription at the base of the statue.

        OLD MAN
        I engraved it myself, hoping that
        in my passing, someone may read it,
        and perhaps fulfill the quest,
        and bring her back.
        Then they could see her true beauty.
        Which I will never see again.

        The old man slides down his blindfold, revealing deadened eye-sockets, scarred and blackened.

        OLD MAN
        He promised me that.

        The old man graps Wolfram's hand and holds it close. His thumb slides down Wolfram's palm and grazes the raised triangular flesh of his father's iron scar.

        The Old Man rears back in exclamation.

        OLD MAN
        The chosen! You are the chosen!

        He leaps upward and nearly falls.

        OLD MAN
        You are the one!

        Wolfram and Lothair engage each other, puzzled.

        Chosen? What are you talking about?

        Wolfram looks around, afraid.

        OLD MAN
        (to Wolfram)
        You are the one. You are the chosen,
        the savior.

        Savior? Whoa whoa whoa, old man,
        slow down.

        OLD MAN
        (giddy, smiling)
        It is you. You bear the golden mark!
        (reciting, again)
        He who bears the Golden Mark, at the
        base of the true hand, in the
        diagram of three sides.

        Golden Mark? Diagram of what?

        OLD MAN
        Surely, you must know of the
        prophecy. Your father must have
        told you about The scourge that
        would rise up and devour the land.

        the scourge?

        OLD MAN
        (shaking his fists)
        Terror would rain from ev'ry cloud.
        Fear would tremble the most hardened
        trees, For the forest and valleys
        would feel the clenched teeth of the
        ferocious ones The fearless dead â€-
        who would stop at nothing to ruin
        this world. Our world.

        (shaking his head)
        No, no, no. It can't be true.
        I'm just a boy!

        OLD MAN
        And yet lay silent, a small boy,
        entrusted by the Great and Hallowed Ones,
        the sons of Arcus...

        (to Wolfram)
        Have you been holding out on me?


        OLD MAN
        The Divine Heroes of the Promised Age!
        The boy bestowed with goodness, and a
        heart of firm desire! He who bears the
        Golden Mark, at the base of the just hand,
        in the diagram of three sides!

        You. Golden Mark. Chosen One.

        I don't know what he's saying.

        The old man carries on in the b.g. as a manic street preacher would, overcome by possibility.

        Oh please. I remember this,
        I know what he's saying.
        I remember my father telling me all this.

        Oh yeah? What was your father's name?
        Where does he live? Is he still alive?
        &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp You canâ€TMt remember!

        Lothair stumbles for an answer, grumbling. He can't remember, He skulks away.

        Maybe you should have written all
        that on your shield.

        The old man ends his pontification with zest.

        He grasps Wolfram by the shoulders, and if he could, looks him square in the eye.

        OLD MAN
        Do not be frightened Do not be
        daunted. You have the power of the
        Divine Heroes of the Promised Age.
        You have been entrused by the
        Great and Hallowed Ones, the sons
        of Arcus!

        Who's Arcus?

        OLD MAN
        There will be plenty of time for
        that. You must set about to find
        The Stone Heart. Then you and
        your petty friend there, must
        defeat Mordrak the Soulless
        and the The Scourge, and
        return the heart to it's proper
        owner, my beloved daughter.

        Wolfram slumps to the ground, overwhelmed.

        I just want to go home.

        The old man smiles at him.

        Lothair, away from them both, stewing.

        (to himself)
        Divine Sons of...whatever.
        Of course, he's the hero, he's the
        chosen one. I was getting sooo
        close, and now this. Protectoring,
        what was I thinking? I don't even
        know what the hell protectoring is...

        OLD MAN
        (to Wolfram)
        Your home will be this kingdom.

        The old man slides around, feeling his way to the statue.


        • #5
          Re: How's this?

          klepto -

          i think it's important to note something about the raiders of the lost ark scene you mentioned... we are introduced to indy as a swashbuckling hero in a unbelievable situation. Then we see him as a bookworm professor. I think that scene is exposition, but it has that nice 180 switch in the character which helps it along~


          • #6

            One of my favorite uses of expository flashback, is in the film Red Violin.

            I won't spoil the surprise, but watch for the scene when Samuel L. Jackson is reading a document which reveals why the Red Violin is so special...

            I think it is much more effective than if he had just read it aloud.


            • #7
              Re: RE

              Okey-dokey. Lemme see.

              Everyone's advice has been good so far.

              But, even though, over all, it might be faster to have the story told than shown, there are always certain elements that would be clarified by action, by showing, so for those, you can flashback into the story, WHILE IT'S BEING TOLD, so that the scene doesn't feel static.

              This won't work for any script, but it might be applicable for yours. I just don't know, really.

              Also, Gore's suggestion of checking out RED VIOLIN ... yeah. The example about which he's talking is applicable, and the film is beautiful.



              • #8

                The Raiders example is good exposition. Jaws uses good exposition, especially when the expert is explaining they have the wrong shark. Aliens has good exposition, especially when the characters are figuring out how to hold off the aliens and send for help. One thing all those examples share is tension. That is one serious way to get away with exposition, if it's a fight, not just a lecture, it will often fly.

                The most brilliant exposition probably on film though is Princess Bride. "Look, the Cliffs of Insanity!" (That still cracks me up.) You do not get told what the Cliffs of Insanity are. Or what their history is. Just the way they are introduced, their name, and one look is enough. And then they climb them. It is great and almost the whole film is written like that.


                • #9
                  Re: RE

                  TERMINATOR handles it well when Reese explains to Sara while being chased by the Terminator, also in the drainage tunnel.

                  With your story (what you have posted), you could have the Old Man search for an ancient book after he notices Wolfram's mark. Lothair can read some of the passage while the Old Man searches for what Wolfram will need for his journey.

                  This would set up action and anticipation, especially if Lothair sees a picture of some horrible beast in the book and doesn't mention it to Wolfram (I only use that as an example, Lothair may not be that kind of character). Or, the Old Man can start handing weapons to Wolfram, with a harried explanation that can be expounded upon later... as the journey.

                  Hope that makes sense. Just another option! Best of luck with the writing.