22 Ways To Hide Exposition

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  • 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

    Great scripts are full of exposition, but in “covert” form – great writers are adept at hiding their exposition so that you get the information without noticing it. There are 22 different ways of doing this, all of which we study at the Summer School, and I’m going to share the first of them.
    http://chasharrisfootloose.wordpress...de-exposition/

    I'm cheap ($400 is a lot of money) and I can't get to England, but I'm interested in this knowledge. Maybe posters here on Done Deal Pro can compile a list of ways to hide exposition and give examples. I'm looking for this knowledge to help me improve as a writer.

    What say you? What are your techniques to hide exposition in your screenplays?
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 05-05-2013, 08:34 AM. Reason: Fixed name spelling/spacing.

  • #2
    Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

    Really? 22 ways? No more, no less? Way to overanalyze and take all the life out of a minor concern. You know, I have a section covering this matter in my book, but the download will cost you only $4.99.

    (Don't delete me. That's not a plug. I'm just saying what a ripoff this $400 price tag is.)

    If you want to know the best ways to hide exposition, they are, ordered from best to worst, are as follows:

    1. Tell it through the scene's conflict.
    2. Give it as supporting information told through or used to back up a scene's unrelated action.
    3. Give it though visuals that do not distract from the action of the scene.

    If lots of dialogue must be used to communicate exposition:
    4. Give it conversationally.
    5. Cut down on long speeches by matching it with a visually stimulating demonstration of the speech's content to show more than you tell.
    Or, if all else fails:
    6. Distract the audience from the bluntness of direct, bald exposition by layering it with a secondary piece of action or information (we absorb the information with our ears while watching characters perform a more interesting action with our eyes)

    In other words, the matter is simple. The scene must be doing something other than be giving the exposition. The exposition is just the background stuff slipped in along the way while more interesting things are happening.
    scribbler screenwriting blog-o-zine - Celebrating its fifth year of bloggerdom!

    Download a copy of Screenwriting Down to the Atoms : The Absolute Essentials Edition completely FREE!

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    • #3
      Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

      My philosophy is to parse out exposition on a need to know basis.

      I usually find that some of the exposition that I initially believed I'd need to get out, is stuff that the audience never needs to know.

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      • #4
        Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

        My favorite example of great exposition is the dinner scene from Temple of Doom. There's a great big info-dump that's hard to notice because it's played for laughs, contrasting everyone's reactions (or lack there of) to the exotic cuisine. On the other end of the spectrum, for me, is Simon's info-dump from the Firefly pilot, which has him stand in front of everyone and give a so-so monologue. I hate that.

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        • #5
          Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

          Originally posted by ctp View Post
          My favorite example of great exposition is the dinner scene from Temple of Doom. There's a great big info-dump that's hard to notice because it's played for laughs, contrasting everyone's reactions (or lack there of) to the exotic cuisine.
          That's a good example of the #6 I gave above. It's like a magician's sleight-of-hand. The magician draws the audience's attention by doing something interesting with his left hand so they do not notice the tricks he pulls with his right.
          scribbler screenwriting blog-o-zine - Celebrating its fifth year of bloggerdom!

          Download a copy of Screenwriting Down to the Atoms : The Absolute Essentials Edition completely FREE!

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          • #6
            Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

            http://arbitrarynonsense.wordpress.c...on-techniques/

            http://arbitrarynonsense.wordpress.c...-techniques-2/

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            • #7
              Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

              I'd go with the first fifteen minutes of Serenity. Got everyone who hadn't seen the TV series up to speed, a huge amount of information, without boring everyone who had seen the TV series. All the main characters introduced, what their role was on the ship, their relationship to each other etc, plus the whole backstory of the baddies after them and why, plus the potted history of the system.

              Done with a mixture of flashback, plain exposition and a long single shot walk through the ship.

              A fantastic job.

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              • #8
                Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

                The Terminator, much of the exposition is achieved during the car chase so there's something exciting happening while the exposition is being related
                I heard the starting gun


                sigpic

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                • #9
                  Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

                  'Exposition is ammunition' - possibly the most meaningless phrase ever to spill out of Robert McKee's arse.

                  I think it all depends on whether the audience wants to know it. I'd happily listen to Henry Hill in Goodfellas talking me through every tiny detail of Mafia life because it's interesting. It's not hidden, it's voice-over, it's explaining the story - but I don't care because it's good.

                  Pretty much every Jon/Chris Nolan story is packed with scenes of blatant exposition, but usually at the exact point that the audience is starting to wonder what the f**k's going on. So it's good that it's completely on the nose.

                  However - compare the moment where Charlize Theron calls Weyland her father in Prometheus. Done (kinda) subtly, slipped into dialogue - but it stank because I didn't care. Didn't care, wasn't interested and it made no difference to the story anyway so was completely redundant.

                  So my view is, worry less about hiding it and more about making it interesting and relevant to the story.
                  My stuff

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                  • #10
                    Re: 22 Ways To Hide Exposition

                    Avoid mere talking heads. Have something more visceral happening, while the exposition is delivered.

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