Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Properly Exposing

In search of a page to post in response to the one page gauntlet, I skimmed some of my screenwriting efforts from the past year and -- well -- ouch. Those screenplays are collecting dust bunnies under the bed for a reason. More painful than recognizing the flawed writing is realizing that a year from now, I will likely have the same yuck-in-my-gut reaction to what I am working on today.

I don't know which parts read the worst, but I'm thinking it's a tie between my dead-on dialogue and poorly crafted exposition. Did I say it was poor? I meant tragic, calamitous, pitiable, and shockingly lamentable.

Okay, poor.

So, I'm on a quest for the keys to crafting a screenplay without insulting the intelligence of the reader by using exposition that couldn't be more offensively obvious if you pointed it out with flashing neon lights.

I have nothing against neon, mind you. It can be useful in pointing the way to ATM machines, pool halls, nail salons, tanning beds, tattoo parlors, slot machines, the exits of smoke filled aircraft, and -- beer. Oh, and anyone who has ever consumed two full bottles of Snapple green tea while driving four hours to Austin can ballyhoo the merits of neon signs over restroom doors in crowded convenience stores.

Neon has its place. Exposition, too, has its place. So why is it that some exposition works and some sounds like dialogue from a Dick and Jane early reader? Could it be that exposition often uses neon signs where better craftsmanship would require only a small blinking light? Or, do we sometimes use so many blinking lights that it spoils the view of everything else?

Karl Iglesias has an article about exposition in this month's Creative Screenwriting Magazine. My magazine arrives in the mailbox weeks after everyone gets theirs (and the mail lady wonders why I chase her down?), so I haven't gotten to read it yet but I'm thinking that on this quest to better write and better understand exposition, that article is the place to start.


Unknown Screenwriter said...

Good observation.

Any time you write a character telling another character about something that happened OR something that will happen, it's time to get out the red sharpie and circle "X" the hell out of that stuff and then sit down and figure out how to SHOW that same information VISUALLY.

Iglesias knows dialogue well although I haven't read the article but I did take his dialogue workshop at last year's Screenwriting Expo.

He makes you think...


oneslackmartian said...

sometimes a message (or 2 or 3) on a telephone answering machine can deliver some clever exposition without it seeming so . . . expositiony

Chesher Cat said...

I acted before I wrote and I think that helped me with dialogue.

I agree with Unk on the exposition...as a matter of fact, why don't you string some garlic on the red sharpie just to be sure you get it all.

Unknown Screenwriter said...

I don't get it.


Milehimama said...

This might help.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Unk, I buy sharpies in bulk

Deb, I didn't know you acted. I tried a few times in high school. I make a wonderful Dolly Levi but I'm the worst Eliza Doolittle you'll ever see.

MHM, just went there -- good stuff, gonna use it

Anonymous said...

I just got an early present, Karl Iglesias's Writing For Emotional Impact book... throw out all the other books, sweep them off the shelf and place this one front and center.. trust me, it's that good