The question is this, at what point does exposition become an information dump, and how much will readers accept?
The amount of exposition put into any story is as much about how well it conveys the information and how well it works, as it is about personal preferences. That said, I’m not one for exposition. We all understand that it is both necessary and if done right, entertaining, but it’s a personal pet peeve of mine. If I’m inundated with more than a paragraph of info/back story/internal thought, I have an immediate urge to put the book down. I’ve been known to skim over entire sections/paragraphs, if I start to read it and find it has very little to do with what’s going on right now. I like action/dialogue, something more entertaining than MC thinking about how he’d like to ask the heroin out but is too self-conscious and goes through fifty reasons why he shouldn’t before even saying HI. Yes, it can be give me vital information about the character, but there are other ways to get that information to the reader and for me, I don’t like it. Along the same line this is the story that starts with a ton of exposition. I want something in the first few paragraphs, a conversation, action, something more than the let me introduce the entire set up before I even start with the story.
Last night I took my current WIP to writers group and read a section that I’m not happy with. For the most part the novel is done, written and edited, but there are two places that I’m just irked about. Though I was assured the scene was working, it still nagged at me and when I was driving home I finally realized what I dislike about it. Most of the first scene in this chapter is little more than exposition. Okay, it’s feathered throughout several page. FMC is watching MMC, she’s intrigued by his methodology in deciphering a crime scene. It’s third person omniscient so there is also a thought by the MMC as the scene moves along where he notices her watching him, notices her picking up on his train of thought. The purpose of the section is to show them coming to a better understand, becoming partners, but to me, it feels like too much stream of conscious, or exposition and I’m perplexed what to do about it.
I’m very self-conscious when I write any amount of exposition and thus I have a hard time putting it in and even more of a hard time leaving it. Trusting my writing group, I’m assured that there is not too much exposition, but I’m still trouble by the amount that is present.
So this is the question I pose to you, my fellow writers, readers, friends, and family… How much exposition/informational dumping, will you tolerate? Please leave you comments.