Exposition: Definition and Examples of the Literary Term

How do good floors start? In the centre of specific actions? With a sluggish buildup to the action?

Exposition is a literary period that deals with how to start a narration.

Exposition literary definition

In this article, I’ll define exposition, talk about how it fits into the drastic organization, provide examples of explanations from popular novels, continues, and movies, and then afford a few cases tips-off on how to use the exposition best in your writing.

Let’s get started.

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Definition of Exposition The description is a fixed of vistums in a narration that are meant to introduce the public to the characters, life, and ambiance of the narration. It is relatively short, and no major changes pass.

While we will focus on how exposition has worked in a narrative in this article, the period is also used in music, marketing (expo ), and academic, expository writing, where it relates to a thorough argumentation for a possibility or idea.

Root of the Term Exposition

The word exposition originates from two Latin messages exponere, making” to display ,” and expositio represent” a setting forth ,” and the combination is helpful to understanding to what is happening in the exposition of a tale: the was put forward by of a showing, like how an columnist wreaks for the slice of a story, including the characters, the fit, and the patches of the story before the storey genuinely begins.

The music world dedicates us clues as to what is happening in an exposition too. An expo is the first section of a fugue or sonata form during which the central melodic themes are introduced for first time. In the same way, in a narrative, the explanation can be the place where the topic and the main ideas are fist stated.

Synonyms for description, in storytelling, include introduction( used by Freytag) and sometimes hook.

Where Exposition Fits in the Dramatic Structure

At The Write Practice, we are speaking of the six aspects that even off drastic design. They are 😛 TAGEND

Exposition Inciting Incident Rising Action/ Progressive Complications Crisis Climax Denouement

In stunning structure, the account occurs at the beginning of the storey and is meant to set up the move occurrence, which is a moment where specific actions knocks off in the story.

How Long Is the Exposition in Most Stories?

Since narrations are about modification and significances in situations of conflict, the expo, which contains no change, is necessarily quite short.

Most exposition is just two or three vistums, and sometimes it’s simply half a scene.

For example, in The Hobbit, there are just a got a couple of pages of interpretation before Gandalf shows up and invites Bilbo on an adventure.

Description Lessons

Here are a few examples of exposition in literature 😛 TAGEND Example: The Exposition in Romeo and Juliet

In Romeo and Juliet, the account is actually relatively long, even longer depending on where you introduced the motivate incident( Freytag puts it earlier than I would, but then, Freytag has a different way of thinking about story structure ):

Servants of the two extending families in the city, the Montagues and Capulets, brawled in wall street. Romeo, a young son of the Montagues, is chilled after being rejected by a woman, and his friends attempt to cheer him up. Juliet, the daughter of the Capulets, irks at her mothers placing her up with a being. Romeo’s friends persuasion him to attend a party at the Capulets’.

At this party, Romeo matches Juliet, and dusks in love at first sight, forming the inflaming happen. It is then that the main action of the romp begins.

But it isn’t until the fifth scene that this inciting incident appears, which starts this one of the longer examples of exposition.

Note: Gustav Freytag argues that the invitation to the Capulets’ party is actually the inciting occurrence, which would become the expo a bit shorter, really three situations. I get this, from a certain perspective, since it’s the party that throws the two families together irrevocably, but I think that event is dwarfed by instant lure between the two lovers.

Exposition Length: 4 scenes

Example: The Exposition in Gravity

In contrast, the movie Gravity, about an cosmonaut attempting to survive a disaster in space, has only one exposition that is quite short.

The story begins with Dr. Ryan Stone( Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalksi( George Clooney) who are on a spacewalk on the Hubble Space Telescope.

But their spacewalk is interrupted when a missile strike effects a chain reaction of cavity debris that threatens to destroy much of the spacecraft around the planet.

This missile strike and the gap debris chain reaction appears right at the end of the first place, symbolizing the description is less than a scene long.

Exposition Length: <1 scene

6 Tips for a Great Exposition

If you’re writing a novel1. Begin With Your Story’s Core Value

As we’ve talked about in our discussion of story arcs

There are traditionally six value scales:

Life vs. DeathLife vs. a Fate Worse than DeathLove vs. HateAccomplishment vs. FailureMaturity vs. NaiveteGood vs. Evil

Stories rise and fall on the scale of these values. A love story might begin in the middle of the love vs. hate scale

In your exposition

Are you telling an adventure story on the life vs. death scale? Then begin with your first life vs. death moment.

Are you telling a performance story about a team competing to win a major tournament? Then begin with a scene that deals with accomplishment and failure.

Are you telling a story about good and evil? Well

Your exposition is not just about introducing your setting and your main characters’ background information. It’s also about introducing the values at play in your story.

Then2. Include Conflict–Just Because There’s No Major Change Doesn’t Mean There’s No Conflict or Choice

Stories can feel slow and boring during the exposition

No. Please

The exposition is still part of the story

Otherwise your reader will read five pages of your story and then put it down in boredom.

Your exposition must still be a good story.

How do you actually do that though? How do you make sure your exposition has conflict and choice so that it can develop the plot?

Here’s how: Just as a story has the six elements of dramatic structure

That means every scene

For example

We could outline the scene like this:

Exposition: Two Capulet servants talk about their hatred of the Montagues.Inciting Incident: Two Montague servants come onstage and a verbal feud begins.Rising Complication: BenvolioCrisis: Benvolio must choose whether to fight and break the peace or allow himself to be called a coward.Climax: Tybalt and Benvolio fight until their fight is broken up by armed citizens.Denouement: The Prince declares that anyone who breaks the peace will be executed.

See how

So3. Introduce Most of Your Characters

First impressions matter. How you introduce your characters is how they will be remembered by the reader throughout the story. Take care to introduce them with the exact impression you want the reader to take away.

You can introduce them through narrative

Also be sure to introduce all or at least most of the important characters in your story in the exposition.

While you can introduce characters throughout the first act of your story (it’s usually not a good idea to introduce them afterward) it’s your exposition’s job to introduce most of your cast.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way in my memoir Crowdsourcing Paris

When a beta reader gave me feedback that I needed to introduce the character earlier4. Establish the Point of View (POV)

Establish your point of view in the exposition

The point of view is the perspective from which you tell the story.

The main options are third person limited

For more on this5. Save the Cat

One tried and true method of introducing a central character in the best possible light is to have them “save the cat

The term comes from Roxeanne

The admirable act

Aladdin. After stealing a loaf of bread and escaping the policeHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If being an orphan and bullied by the unclePride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet is first singled out as worth rooting for by her fatherThe Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins

While a selfless or admirable act is not required6. Build to the Inciting Incident Quickly

As we showed in our example

The point here is to get to the point: the inciting incident.

The inciting incident is when the story will begin moving

So don’t dawdle. Do what you need to do to set up the inciting incident6. Some Books Don’t Start With the Exposition

In some storiesIn medias res

In medias res

The audience

A good example of a story that starts in medias res is almost every film in the Mission Impossible franchise.

Flash forward


A good example of this technique is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (both the novel and film versions).

There are drawbacks to beginning with a moment deep in the action of the story

The writers who do it the best draw the audience out of the action as quickly as they drew them in

What is always true of successful stories is you have to get through the exposition at some pointGood Stories Start With Clear Choices

If you want to write a great story



So get started

The Write StructureNeed more plot help? After you practice this plot element in the exercise below

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Let’s applied the exposition to use with the following creative writing exercise 😛 TAGEND

Use the following story structure as a creative writing prompt to write an exposition of your own.

Exposition: ___________( Fill in the space .) Inciting happen: A original burglar shares the plan for the greatest heist of his/ her occupation with his/ her team. Rising action: The unit proposes the robbery. Crisis: Best bad choice. Lost in the heist for the sake of the team, or choose to save the team and give up the profit from the robbery? Climax: The surmount thief causes up the profits, saving his/ her unit. Resolution: Missing out on the heist, or appears to be, was all part of the thief’s plan, and he/ she shares the profits with his/ her squad.

Start by outlining the missing exposition in a single sentence. Then defined your timer for fifteen minutes and write your description as quickly as you can.

When your time is up, berth your rehearsal( and your exposition sentence) in the comments for feedback. And if you post, be sure to leave feedback on a few sections by other writers.

Happy writing!

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