The Dragon’s Toe: Exposition and Mystery

As fiction writers, we have a natural tendency to introduce too much exposition too early.

This video, and the related handout, talk you through the process of moving your exposition away from the beginning, and towards the part of your novel where it actually belongs: the middle. 

Get the handout here: The Exposition Handout.


Exposition handout

How to layer in exposition

Additional discussion

Join the community discussion of this lesson

  • I really like this idea. I’m working on a middle-grade right now and this is the most helpful method I have found.

  • This is your most interesting video thus far. I started to do this in my outline for side characters’ as their purpose in the story becomes revealed. The reveal is going to explain the behaviors of both the Protagonist and the side character (who seems nebulous at first but becomes an antagonist).

  • I completed the Exposition Handout in the Dragon’s Big Toe as suggested, not for one exposition, but for three different expositions, which I was very pleased with. I learned a lot in doing that. However, I see no reference to the number of these I should include in my WIP. Should I stop at one? If not, how do I stop making the reader from thinking this is contrived? Thank you.

  • love this – I am doing it already but have to add more – esp because the consequence of the big reveal (or the important second half of it) will have to wait for book 2

  • The plot thickens…. where it’s suppose to

  • Using the worksheet, after listing many items that I have not exposed yet (I’m actively writing Stage 1 at the moment), I have determined the following:
    – I have made some vague references/initial mentions, but haven’t progressed any into the second-fourth mentions
    – Some of the items are related to each other, and I think I need to look at how to stage the mentions for those as a group to ensure they flow properly. I feel like I’m itching to map them out visually, but I don’t want to overthink it either. Thoughts?

  • nicki.nance says:

    I have done a bit of this, but I really hadn’t thought about characters who will developed further in later chapters.

  • provspa329 says:

    This is also an awesome way of “spitballing” ideas to see if they stick and how to introduce them into the story.

    The additional discussion says the page does not exist or I’m locked out of it.

  • provspa329 says:

    Fantastic exercise! I’m using it on a current project and it’s clarifying so much. I wonder what it would be like if I were starting from scratch. I imagine it is much easier.

  • Omg. I just did part one of this worksheet and realized just how absolutely ginormous and out of control my backstory is. Thank goodness I have not committed to anything yet and can remold and rethink. I am overwhelmed by the hugeness of what I have written down. Time to go back and really think about those five ones.

  • I’m lost in the sea of all my backstory now and stuck on how to extract one element to focus on for part two of the worksheet. This is really a valuable exercise. Just imagine if I’d already written chapters. Ugh. Well, I have a sense that if I sit with this for a little while, I’ll settle on which element to select.
    This exercise has also helped me see that from my vast sea of information, I’ll need to select an element that is actually related to the plot — and that much of my backstory, and many of my extra characters backstories, have little or no connection to the main plot at all. They are spin-offs. I didn’t see that before.

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