E is for Expository Lump

by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2013

E is for Expository Lump

An Expository Lump happens when you kill the forward movement of your story by dropping a big chunk of information into the middle of the action. More story damage includes ruining tension and suspense.

You may know the Expository Lump by one of its other names, the “As you know, Bob….” This is the term for an exchange of dialogue between two characters that serves no other purpose than to explain something to the reader. Both characters already know what they’re discussing, so there’s no real plot advancement or character development.

How do you fix this? The reader needs to know all this stuff, right? Maybe, maybe not. (See my previous entry about Back Story.) If the information really is crucial to the reader’s understanding of plot events and/or character motivation, then yes, include it. The key to working such information into your story is to dramatize it. Don’t just give the reader information.

One of the worst clichés of action movies is the scene where the bad guy takes the hero captive then stands there explaining his entire fiendish plot. B-O-R-I-N-G. An excellent movie that shows the hero fighting for every single inch of progress he makes is “XXX” starring Vin Diesel. The good guys won’t tell Xander (Vin Diesel) why they send him where he goes. The bad guys don’t want anybody to know what they’re planning. That leaves Xander with no idea what he’s trying to find out, who he’s trying to get it from, or why it’s so important. The viewer is right there with him step by step as he infiltrates the bad guys and figures out how to make sure they don’t succeed.

Dramatize that exposition!  Make it exciting!  Make it a victory to figure something out!  Readers want to be there right alongside the hero or heroine, asking questions, solving riddles, fighting to accomplish the story goal. Don’t let a sudden history lesson, biology lecture, or mechanical schematic interrupt their enjoyment of your story.



Filed under Blog challenges, Fiction, Writing

5 responses to “E is for Expository Lump

  1. I agree completely! I hate hearing exposition in dialogue, but it happens a lot. I call it soap opera syndrome.


  2. This is such a cool series, and so helpful!

    I think the polar opposite of writing virtues must be cooking virtues. In cooking, you live and die by “mise en place” – and it’s easy to see why writers think along similar lines. “I should get all the ingredients together before we start making the soup / I need to tell the readers all about how the ship works first, so they’ll understand why it crashes later.” It’s such a natural thing to assume, and yet it’s so, so dreadful for the story.

    I love that your handy tips come with story recommendations, by the way – the perfect excuse to treat myself to a hefty dose of Vin Diesel!


  3. Pingback: P is for Prologue | Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.