Story through Dialogue, Part 2: Exposition

Dialogue as exposition happens when characters reveal information about themselves, the other characters, the setting, or events in the story through conversation. For beginning writers, it can be tempting to rely too much on dialogue to provide information, such as by having characters simply state facts about themselves, such as “I’m a strong and brave guy who likes to rescue people.”

A more effective use of dialogue as exposition is to have the characters reveal information during scenes or interactions that are full of conflict. For instance, when a detective is interviewing a suspect about where he was on the day of a bank robbery, if the suspect is the criminal, he might reveal some information about another character in order to throw suspicion off of him or her and onto the other character, such as “I haven’t seen Jessica in days, but I think you should talk to Ashley instead of me. They’ve been hanging out a lot lately, and Ashley gets angry at Jessica all the time!” Or the suspect might reveal the relationship another character has to the victim of the crime and what the other person’s motive might be for committing the crime, such as “I was at home watching TV when the Jessica was murdered, but I overhead Tom yelling at Jessica in the hallway earlier that night. It sounded like he was really mad at her for forgetting to come to his dog’s birthday party! He threatened to kill her!”

By revealing information through dialogue as exposition we learn about the relationship between the victim and another suspect, but we do so through a scene full of tension.

Activity: Setting the Scene with Dialogue as Exposition

Instructions: For this exercise, you will write a scene that is made up only of dialogue. Think of a specific situation with two characters. Give the characters names and state what each character will explain through dialogue. Then create the dialogue the two characters will use as exposition.

What is the situation?

What is the first character’s name?

What will he/she/it explain through dialogue?

What is the second character’s name?

What will he/she/it explain through dialogue?

Create the dialogue between your two characters:

Next Tuesday, we’ll take a closer look at the Characterization in dialogue.

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