Exposition Problems—Youch!

The first section of my book has always given me a lot of trouble. Everything I read suggests keeping the first fifty pages fast paced with a lot of dialogue, but I can't have dialogue between the two main characters because my male MC is DEAD. Yeah. He doesn't know the female MC, Emma, can see him, and she doesn't know he's supposed to be invisible. Though it does make for some really fun situations, such as, one of her lunch breaks where he comes up and sits next to her on the park bench and makes comments about the book she's reading, where she came from, how young she is, etc. She is flustered and feels like he's playing mind games. He doesn't think she can hear him—no one else has before. His fingers are resting close to her bare arm, and she's hiding in this stupid paperback about aliens, just trying to pretend she doesn't care. They've never looked each other in the eye, they've never touched, and a reader has to wade through all of this exposition for a while and trust that I, the writer, am leading them somewhere good. It's a tough one, and like I said, the whole thing has given me trouble from day one.

I did not want Emma to discover that Will was a ghost too soon; I wanted it to be a slow reveal. There's one scene where she goes out to look for him one night, because she figures he must be homeless—what with him never changing his clothes or eating or anything. She goes out and leaves money and a small bag of food—a breeze holds her in place and whispers her name. All the leaves in the trees shiver and shake and times stands still. This couldn't have happened if I had given them a concrete relationship from the start, because in the world of spirits, nothing is concrete. It's about having faith and stepping out of that physical, real world, into a more symbolic, ethereal existence. And Emma being kissed by the breeze is her first introduction into belief beyond proof. It's magic and requires a lot of slow build. I guess in so many ways I have made it hard for readers, but I felt it was right for the story.

I do, however, have real people Emma can talk to. One is her boss at the library: Ethyl the paperback novel reading wise-ass who champions against the evil cult-church who only want to shut her down—knowledge is dangerous in a town that wishes to stay locked in time. They don't want anyone to learn too much, especially ghost man Will, because knowledge means questioning the status quo which can lead to serious revolt. So anyway, that's who Emma talks to at first. Then she meets bad boy Jesse whom she thinks she can trust. He's her friend for awhile, and you think she's forgotten about Will, but things change fast and all is revealed. That's where I have so much dialogue you want to kill me.

Anyone else have massive problems in their books? Isn't it frustrating?


  1. Oh wow. I tried to post this in the morning, but BLogger wouldn't let me. I figured the blog-gods were against me and gave up. Now I just have to figure out why my twitter link has gone on the fritz. Probably just as well, I haven't made a tweet since TweetDeck stopped working on my iPod touch. Me and technology are gonna have a b*tchfight one of these days.

  2. I don't think there is a 'formula' in novel-writing. Surely it's those who find new and interesting ways of expressing themselves who are successful. Guidelines should be ignored.

    Bisou, Cro.

  3. I agree with Cro, there is no formula for writing. I say do what feels right to you, and what you feel is right for your book. I think if you do that, it will all come together.

    But I do understand, problems with your work is extremely frustrating!

  4. Amy - I've read your post through three times and I would so like to read your book when it's finished. I am intrigued why Emma and Will like each other which they obviously do. What are their characteristics. Emma was concerned about Will being homeless and hungry - was it just because she was that kind of person, or was it something in him that made her really care about him. Does she suspect that the breeze has anything to do with Will. What are her thoughts! How does she react to the real people that she talks to. Amy I agree totally with what Cro and Jessica are saying and hope I'm not confusing you and being totally unhelpful. Keep writing, you'll get it sorted!

  5. Jessica, I've kind of worked my way to a nice middle ground where I know what I want my book to be, but also how to keep it commercial enough (I think). I think that's why we have first and second drafts—the first one is for us, and the second is for the reader.

    molly- I love that you want to read it! Your sweet words of encouragement have helped me get back in the game of trying to get it published. Thank you! You asked about Emma and Will--she thinks he's homeless because he never eats, never changes his clothes, he's not in the phonebook, etc. Ghosts don't need to do all that stuff, haha. Her eyes are closed when the breeze whispers her name and kisses her, so she can never say for sure if it was him or just her imagination. She thinks maybe she's going a little nuts!

    Your questions are good; they're exactly what readers will be asking. Thanks Molly : )


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