choreographing the Aleutian cackling goose

Exposition is risky – and necessary.

At it’s best exposition provides critical back story, or foreshadowing, it can enhance character development and help to convey place, time, and atmospheric subtleties that are not appropriate for dialogue.

Used with patience, pacing and economy, exposition feels ‘invisible’ to the reader, it enhances story without intruding. A good way to do this is to imagine your characters doing something specific, such as ornithologists eating a packed lunch during a break. You can ‘choreograph’ their dialogue – as they speak, show details of unwrapping sandwiches or opening a thermos of tea, and you can incorporate brief moments of exposition (where are they, who are they, why are they here) into the text.

aleutian-cackling-goose-survey-crew Brian Anderson U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Using the text below from Audubon, and the photograph of the Aleutian cackling goose survey crew, create a scene in which one of the characters is a novice, and the others are experts. Write the dialogue so that this information feels natural in the conversation. The challenge is to find ways for characters to say what they know in ways that feel true.

Use simple taglines (he said, she said) that don’t interfere with the flow.

“The Cackling Goose is one of North America’s “newest” birds. In 2004, the American Ornithologist’s Union determined that the four smallest (of eleven) subspecies of the Canada Goose were actually a unique species–now officially called the Cackling Goose. This “split” was based largely upon mitochondrial DNA analysis, but certain characteristics of appearance and behavior also separate the two species. However, even experienced bird watchers may have difficulty separating Cackling from Canada Geese, especially during migration, when mixed flocks occur.” Audubon Society