Plot vs. Exposition

By Melanie Anne Phillips

A common misconception is that Plot is the order of events in a story. In fact, the order in which events are unfolded for the reader or audience can be quite different from the order in which they happen to the characters.

Plot, then, is really that internal progression of events, while the reader/audience order is more precisely referred to as Exposition.

For an author, it is important to separate the two. Otherwise it is too easy to overlook a missing step in the logical progression of the story because the steps were put out of order in Exposition.

On the other hand, trying to separate the internal logic of the story from the Exposition order really inhibits the creative muse. When working out a story, many authors like to envision the finished work including the Exposition. This gives the best impression of how the story will feel to the audience.

So the key is to first create your plot as it will appear in the finished story. Once you have a handle on it, that is the time to put the plot in Character Order to see if there are any missing pieces.

If there are, fill in the logical gaps, then “re-assemble” the plot back into the order in which you wanted to unfold it for the audience, making sure to add the new gap-filling plot pieces into your exposition as well.

Using this system, you will ensure that everything that happens in your story is not only interestingly revealed, but also makes an unbroken chain of sense.

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