Expository Exercises

I have difficulty explaining things when I write fiction. I have very complex worlds, but consistently I get feedback that people don’t understand the setting details and background information of my stories.

I was complaining about the same to a friend of mine today. He gave me a couple of good exercises to work on my exposition technique.

Exercise 1: Reverse 20 Questions
Though the goal is actually only 5 descriptors, the title says most of the exercise. To put in more direct terms, the goal of the first steop is to describe a common object by thinking of 5 different details or sentences to describe it. I described a dinner fork as my first attempt at this exercise. The second step of the exercise is to describe the same object in a way a culture that does not commonly have that object would understand. As an example, I had to describe a fork to a person who only ever ate with chopsticks.

One of the things I like about this exercises is that it breaks down understanding into a simple first step. Figure out how to describe even an ordinary object is interesting, and enlightens the second exercise.

Exercise 2: Fantastical Description
Pick out one idea from the world and explain it how a character might encounter it, so either an object (powerstone, tower, etc.) or race, and do a few drafts until you are happy with use of words, and descriptive value.

The above exercise description is an edited version of how my friend sent it to me. I’m preparing to do more of these as this second exercise is a way to put things into a more complete form. Perhaps I can think of an intermediate exercise to go between one and two. In fact, that exercise is next (and last for this post).

Exercise 3: Reverse 20 Questions, Fantastical Edition
This one is basically Exercise 1, in which you describe, instead of a common object, an object that does not exist. And instead of coming up with only 5 descriptors, come up with as many as possible with five as a minimum. This way you’ll get a more complete picture of the object.

This last exercise is the one I’ll probably be using the most today, because its a technique I need to learn as well as possible.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day!


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