In Part 1 of this Writing Insights series, we discussed how exposition is often a necessary evil in scriptwriting for conveying information that your audience needs to know, and how sometimes it’s better to use the visual medium of film instead.
But what happens when visuals aren’t enough? What do you do when you have to use dialogue instead? The answer is to make exposition so interesting that the audience doesn’t notice that it’s there – they’re too engrossed to get bored by the dreaded “info-dump” or feel that the characters are speaking in a way that might otherwise seem unnatural.
There are quite a few different ways to make exposition interesting, though. Here are a few of our hints and tips on how to go about it…
- Ignite the audience’s curiosity about what you’re about to reveal. Pose it as a question – for example, THE MATRIX‘s famous: “What is The Matrix?” – and make the audience want to know the answer. Then, when the answer is given, they’ll already be interested!
- Another trick used by THE MATRIX is including exposition in situations that are exciting – containing striking visuals and action – so that the dialogue is enhanced by what’s going on around it. Morpheus could have explained the rules of The Matrix to Neo over a nice cup of coffee – but instead, he does it through a demonstration of kung-fu.
- Make your protagonist be an outsider. As mentioned in Part 1, we don’t tell people things that they already know – but if there’s someone who doesn’t know the world or situation, then you’ve got a good excuse. And that means that it no longer feels unnatural!
- Think about what else you might be able to convey through the exposition itself. Character is best revealed through action – the things we choose to do, the decisions we make – so consider what you might be revealing about the character who is talking. The titular character of the TV show SHERLOCK comes out with huge amounts of exposition, but it feels fine because it’s in character to show off and it tells us a lot about who he is.
So there are our hints and tips to make exposition interesting. Keep these in mind the next time you’re writing a script, and make sure that your dialogue shines!