Okay – so I’m sure that title up there is going to come up on all sorts of inappropriate searches, but I promise this post is clean.
I’ve been revising my manuscript for what seems like forever. I’ve been working a lot on characterization (I tend to make the characters act how I want them to rather than how they would probably act if they were real), flow (I write like an English Language Learner S-V-O), and pacing.
Pacing is what I’ve been focused on lately, because I found myself going through my revision spreadsheet and writing BORING for more than one chapter. There are a million ways to work this out, and I’ll give you a few here, then I’ll tell you about sexposition and what I learned from watching a director’s commentary.
- CUT THE BORING PARTS! If you’re bored, the reader is too! That’s bad. A lot of the time, you can completely cut boring scenes; it might require a few transplants of crucial elements to other chapters, but I promise it doesn’t ruin your life to delete entire chapters.
- Murphy’s Law – Anything that can go wrong will… SO MAKE SOMETHING GO WRONG! Make your characters suddenly have to deal with a flood, angry chinchillas and their worst enemy declaring undying love for them. That kind of stuff is never boring. And if all else fails, follow the Michael Scott school of improv and have someone pull out a gun 🙂
- SHOW; DON’T TELL… I know we writer types throw this cliche around like it’s some sort of magic pixie powder , but that’s because it is! Usually, boring scenes are full of telling that could easily be shown!
- CHANGE THE SETTING OF THE SCENE… sometimes all it takes is a little shift of circumstances. Changing up the cast for a given scene sometimes works too.
- And now…. my favorite solution… JAZZ UP THAT EXPOSITION BY TURNING IT INTO SEXPOSITION!
One of my favoritest movies of all time is A Knight’s Tale. It’s cheesy, gooey good, and I love it! I love it so much, in fact, that I watched the entire director’s commentary. Twice.
The part of the commentary that matters to us right now: Antagonist Adamar is sitting next to the lovely lady we want for Protag. William; Count Adamar wants her for himself. They start talking about the joust, Adamar explaining the rules to her. As a writer, we care a lot about this scene, because it’s a chance to have a character explain something rather than us jumping in with a narrator voice to explain. However, this scene is a problem as an actor, because Antagonist Adamar already seems like a J.A. for wanting the girl we want for William, and now the writer is dumping exposition into his dialogue, so he seems simultaneously horrible and boring.
So… Actor playing Count Adamar goes to director for some help.
Adamar: I don’t get this scene. It’s just exposition.
Director: (Thinks for a moment before answering) It’s not exposition. It’s sexposition!
Adamar goes back and plays the scene in a super sensual and flirtatious way that shows lovely lady (and the viewer) that he knows competition and is skilled at it.. and that he views William as his adversary not only in the joust but also in the competition for lovely lady. So rather than coming out of the scene looking like a JA, he looks a little more BA, and the viewer is more invested in the rival between Protag. and Antag.
What does this have to do with revisions?
I’m working on adding more sexposition to my boring scenes.
Of course there is NO sex in my book; it’s middle grade for Pete’s sake! But there are ways to add character to scenes that mainly function as exposition. For example: I had one scene that was a character explaining some oddities of the setting. I couldn’t cut the scene because the reader would have been lost without the explanation. I couldn’t think of anything to make go wrong (they were sitting in an office at a desk so I couldn’t very well throw in a gremlin attack without it seeming contrived). The scene legally had to take place where it took place (you lose your readers if you start having therapists meet with people at rock concerts… sort of has to be a one-on-one in an office-like room). I was already showing rather than telling by revealing the info in dialogue rather than narrative.
So… what did I do?
I highlighted the response of the second character in the scene. Rather than making character 1 and the exposition the primary focus, I had character 2 respond with anger and frustration. This way, the reader learns what he needs to about the setting without realizing he’s learning (we teachers are all about tricking kids into learning). This was also cool because it foreshadows that character 2 is going to do something out of his hatred for the setting.
…and you thought this post was going to be about sex.