I’ve been working on some of the advanced techniques
I teach the writers I help, and one of the most crucial is how to handle exposition.

This one really sorts the professionals from the wannabes and I’m going to share one of my top exposition techniques with you here.

Many writers think exposition means clunky dialogue-ridden scenes where the characters tell you important but heavy-handed information such as:

“Did you know you can get jobs that help you get out of the ghetto?”

“No, really, would that help us escape deportation and also buy eggs that we can’t get inside?”

“Funny you should say that…”

In fact that is what is technically known as bad exposition! I call it “overt” exposition.

Great scripts are full of exposition, but in “covert” form – great writers are adept at hiding their exposition so that you get the information without noticing it.

Anyway, here’s the #1 exposition technique:

Use dramatic action

Dramatic action is the heart of all good scripts. So if you have exposition to hide, use drama.

There’s one brilliant sequence of Schindler’s List written by Stephen Zaillian which is full of exposition, but you’d never notice. It’s approximately 25 minutes from the start. Stern hires Jews in order to save them from deportation to the death camps, and in the process we learn about the deportations and how to avoid them.

To do this, Zaillian first creates a strong dramatic throughline: Stern and his colleagues want to save as many Jewish men, women and children as possible, but the Jews of the time were confused and uncertain as to what was going on.

Within this context it is totally logical that Stern and his colleagues should use the information they have to try to persuade the Jews of the enormous danger they are in and how they can escape.

We are hooked by the drama, and in the process we learn a host of facts which will be essential to understanding the story that will follow.

Making the exposition part of the unfolding dramatic structure is a very powerful way of imparting information to the viewer in a hidden way. Try it in your current script.