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Show, Don’t Tell: Handling Exposition, Backstory and POV

Show, Don’t Tell: Handling Exposition, Backstory and POV

johnharman_1Stories do not come out of a void. There is much the reader needs to know about the time, setting, the characters and past events to enjoy and make sense of the story.

How to handle this mass of details called exposition?

Some storytellers write it on the nose- setting down facts about background, characters and events like a newspapers report. Others use awkward and unnatural contrivances.

This workshop shows how exposition may be woven into the fabric of the story so the reader is scarcely aware of being given essential information, and will show how any writer may master the technique of elucidating exposition.

This workshop will also cover Point Of View (POV) focusing on the three most common (1st person, 3rd person/omniscient, 3rd person proximate), showing the kind of story which each POV is most appropriate.

Workshop Structure

  • What is exposition?
  • What is backstory?
  • How to reveal what you want to reveal:what is not obvious and cannot be inferred? what the reader absolutely needs to know
  • Understanding the principle ‘show, don’t tell’. Evoke, rather than invoke
  • When should the writer tell rather than show?
  • Using exposition as ammunition
  • Writing in scenes
  • Knowing when to reveal- in medias res
  • Knowing the theme of your story
  • Exercising caution with analogy and symbolism: the subtle use of metaphor and simile
  • What POV best suits the novel and its purposes

For all the information, join John Harman at Mattie Furphy’s House, on Saturday 2nd November.

Register at

Cost: $36 for members, $48 non-members

See you there!