Despite the mantra of “show don’t tell,” sometimes when telling a story, you’ll need to use exposition. A good example of this is when one character must catch up another on what has occurred. Though the reader already knows what happened, the story won’t make sense if that information or action isn’t repeated to another character. Of course, the more words and sentences that are needed to the uninformed character caught up, the more the story is slowed.
When confronted with such a dilemma, use the literary convention of the fast forward, a term coined by CSFW’s David Smith. A fast forward involves “shortcutting” to relay the information the character needs to know.
A couple of examples include:
“They found Valders’ body down at the wharf,” Ace said to his partner. “It was all hacked up.”
Ace filled in his partner about Valders’ murder.
This technique commonly is used in mysteries but can be found in every genre.
When using a fast forward, relay the information as succinctly and as quickly as possible. The more details you provide, the longer the story takes to get back to the action. You must always remain aware, however, that the character who is provided the information can know only as much as what he was told.
In addition, try to give the fast forward more purpose than just getting a character caught up. A fast forward, after all, marks a good opportunity to subtly relay information about the characters’ personalities. For example, in the following passage we learn that Ace doesn’t want to appear vulnerable and that his partner is a bit indifferent:
Ace tried to not let his voice tremble. “They found Valders’ body down at the wharf. It was all hacked up.” His partner grunted.
Adding the reaction of the character who is caught up also helps hide the fast forward by quickly shifting the story from exposition to action.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.