This writers' group is paying off already, because looking at how to improve other people's stories is actually quite helpful when you are trying to improve your own.

Case in point: I've read two parts of novels that both face a similar issue--an exposition dump. You know, a spot in the story where the action grinds to a halt so that the narrator can tell you about a character's history, or about their appearance, or about some other background-attribute type thing that the writer thinks the the reader needs to know. And the reader does need to know it...eventually.

That "eventually" is key, because I think in both cases things would work better if the information was withheld for a little bit. In one story, there's a spot where the character dramatically reveals some of his history to another character, while in the other story a character walks into a room and greatly excites another with her appearance. But in both cases it's not so dramatic or exciting for the reader, because we already learned all that about them back at the exposition dump. So, in both cases my advice has been to yank the dump, restoring the flow of action (I know, my metaphors are getting mixed here--just be happy I'm not resorting to digestive ones), and then surprise the reader with the character's history/appearance at a dramatic moment later on.

And THAT made me think about the first few chapters of Trust. I've already split up some of the exposition, but I realized that I can actually do this to dramatic effect. Instead of just saying, Yea, yea, this guy did this really bad thing, I can tease the reader--This guy did something, it was really bad, HERE'S WHAT IT WAS!