Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exposition Dump

The past few writing days I've started off kind of apathetic about my work. I have that five page goal, and that's what I'm aiming for. I know what's supposed to happen and sort of go through the motions to get there. And after about two pages I consider giving up.

Then something has happened every single day. The same thing. After I consider giving up, I remember my five page rule, and I decide that no matter how much it sucks I have to persevere. Somehow after I pass that moment I write some seriously golden shit. Every day.

Today I started a section where I have to reveal a whole lot of exposition. It's one of those scenes where the people on the run get a moment to rest, and that's when we find out why Character A is so fucked up as Character B tells Character C all about it. What's wrong with her? Well, son, let me tell you her backstory. Blech. How the hell do you make that anything other than an exposition dump?

I was so unenthusiastic about this line of dialogue that my character didn't want to talk about it. Then I realized that this was my way around it. She doesn't want to fucking talk about it, asshole, so stop asking. Character C has to wrestle the information out of her. And that's when I realized that Character B is in a whole lot of denial. When she talks about Character A's problems, she really should be talking about herself because she has all the same problems. Character C sees it, we see it, but Character B just continues to snap at everybody and tell them it's all Character A's fault.

What was even better was that I've been having trouble figuring out what Character B's flaw was. Up to that point she'd been in control with no real issues. This one greatest fear of writing an exposition dump ended up turning into a real opportunity for growth in the script.

So I was pretty damn happy with that. In fact, I was so moved by Character B's pain and denial that I started to tear up a little bit. I haven't done that in a long damn time.

Of course, on the rewrite I'll probably wonder why the hell I wrote this crap.


  1. I usually make myself cry when I write something "beautiful," and then two days later I read it and immediately erase it.


  2. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Yo Emily,

    Since action is your thing, have you ever considered writing a script with no dialogue at all?

    If so, keep me in mind.


  3. That's a cool idea, but I can only see it working as a short.

  4. Anonymous2:24 AM

    Another approach to the "too much exposition" problem is to use a flashback to show Character A's backstory. So Character B starts to tell the story, and you cut away to a 10-second flashback that shows the actual event she's describing (often while having Character B's exposition as voiceover during the flashback). Of course, this only works if that sort of quick cut-away-to-flashback-and-then-cut-back style of editing would fit the tone and pacing of your film.


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