Monologues that is!
I think I’ve remarked on it before, but it’s funny how you can know a rule in your head and still break it so easily. I know to avoid big expository chunks of information, long monologues where a character outlines everything you want the reader to learn. Despite that, I still slipped one into a recent chapter (well, actually it was there in prior drafts, but I significantly reworked it without considering whether it belonged there).
My critique group gave me some excellent advice on how to fix it though:
Make it a conversation. This doesn’t solve everything–you don’t want a “So you know, Dr. Bob, that quantum physics is fundamental to our experiment” spiel, but having other people react is more realistic and varies the scene more.
Ask questions. In my case, the speaker has information of interest to both the reader and my main character. My main character can get active by pressing for details, asking deeper questions that the reader probably wants to hear answered too.
Get emotional. Does the speaker’s words evoke any emotions in the other characters? Does it make them curious? Angry? Frightened? If there isn’t any reaction from the others, then there might be more work to do, because people respond when they’re talking.
In my case, the monologue speaker is an old, senile man spouting off about dangerous topics, subjects that could get him killed. After this advice from my critique group, I see how I can take it from a stiff monologue into a great scene where my main character delves into the old man’s knowledge, while the tension mounts from the uncomfortable people listening around him.
Word delta: I’m going write right now!