Saturday, June 16, 2007

Exposition and Narrative

Question: What is the difference between exposition (expository writing) and narrative writing?

Answer: Exposition explains. Narratives tell stories.

Exposition is organized in the following three steps: "Tell them what you are going to tell them." "Tell them." "Tell them what you told them."

Narratives tell the story or incident in chronological order.

Often expository writing includes narrative writing.

So what? Most writing instruction deals with exposition, which is the frequent pattern of writing in the business world and in the world of magazines and professional journals. Feature stories (but not news stories) in newspapers are also expository in form.

In my experience, most inexperienced writers simply begin to write and wander around until they reach their point at the end. Good exposition states the point clearly in the beginning, explains the point in paragraphs in the middle and then summarizes the point at the end. As one student put it, exposition is like whacking your reader over the head three times.

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