A simple little trick to spice up the exposition in your prose and keep the narrative moving when your characters aren’t doing anything exciting.
Say one of your characters is alone in his/her/its house, and they’re doing something mundane that nobody wants to read about, like, I dunno, vacuuming the living room.
Now, if that scene isn’t necessary to your story, you should probably cut it. But say it is necessary. Perhaps you need to establish the character’s daily routine for some reason, or the inciting incident of the story involves the living room and/or the vacuum cleaner. Point is, you think you need the scene, but having a character just walk around vacuuming a room is dull, and you don’t want to bore your readers.
So how do you keep them engaged during a dull but necessary part of the story?
Simple: have them struggle with whatever they’re doing. Using our vacuum cleaner example, maybe they have to flip the switch a few times before it sputters to life, or maybe it’s an old vacuum and the suction’s not what it used to be, or maybe they’re just not good at using a vacuum cleaner. The point is, they should struggle or be frustrated with some aspect of the mundane activity.
Why do this? Here are some reasons:
1) Stories thrive on conflict, even conflict incidental to the plot. By using this trick, you’re feeding the reader a conflict in miniature to tide him or her over until the real conflict is revealed or resumes. That keeps readers interested.
2) Everyone can identify with it. Nobody wants to deal with a broken washing machine or a leaky thermos or a crappy piece of machinery if they can help it, but we all deal with crap like that every day. Thus, we’re immediately on the side of a fictional character who struggles with that stuff.
3) It’s almost automatically funny. What was dull and dramatically leaden is now comedic and likably quirky. Furthermore, it doesn’t undercut drama, and can instead provide levity to dark scenes; think of the Joker about to blow up the hospital in The Dark Knight, for example.
There are other reasons, but those are pretty strong ones, so I’ll leave it at that.
Seriously, try this out. I guarantee you’ll see a difference.