1. roshinerinn1977
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    roshinerinn1977 Banned

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    How much back ground should be presented and how?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by roshinerinn1977, May 20, 2008.

    I tend to present background as I go thru a story, i.e. in the story I am writing now, at least one of the characters has chemical dependency issues, and the way I introduced the subject is by she and her sister having a conversation about her last stint in rehab. What I am saying is, I tend to try to introduce back ground information subtly rather than just having it all out boom hitting the reader over the head and insulting their intelligence. But is this the best way to do that?
    Missie
     
  2. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    The short answer is yes. To illustrate the point:

    Bang! Holy crap. Jim scrambled for cover behind the wall.

    as opposed to:

    Jim had always thought joining the army was a mistake, that he wasn't suited for it. His buddies had told him so. And now he knew they were right as a bullet whizzed past him. blah blah blah


    Cutting straight to the chase, as in the first example, grabs the reader. A big long exposition at the start of a story, as in the second example, will bore the arse off them, and they'll stop reading. It's pretty clear that if shocked by someone shooting at him, your character is going to think joining the army was a mistake, and you don't need a big long diatribe to ram it home. Your readers aren't stupid.

    Al
     
  3. Vertz
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    Vertz Member

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    I think the way you're doing it works a lot better than going into a long exposition. The difference is you're showing rather than just telling. If it works for you, stick with it.

    EDIT: sorry for the short reply. I guess it's a simple answer to me :p Anyway, Al B right with his examples, quick as they are.
     
  4. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Memories are triggered by two things- smells and conversation. Few other things can bring one's past jarringly back to one's mind. If you need to give background, here's the main rule- Do it during a time when the Character will be thinking about it. Not during bullet storms. Write their thoughts during a lull in the conversation, the moments before falling asleep, or as a drunken confession to a bartender. That kind of thing- the times when the mind actually will dredge up one's past.
     
  5. Mad Madam Mimm
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    Mad Madam Mimm New Member

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    I always find it hard to do this. It depends, in my opinion, on the sort of narrative you have. If the narrator has no attatchment to any of the characters, and serves a comedy purpose, you can go off on tangents about their back ground and it adds to the charm. However this is inadvisable unless you really have a way with words. (I need to stop thinking about Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy so much...)

    If the character is thinking about it, and the narrative explains for the reader, it makes more sense, as long as you're developing it at the right time. I like to give a basic background as soon as possible, for example...

    `"I can't believe it! $400 for doing nearly nothing at all. This is gonna be sweet!" Jimmy Pankhurst was, in all areas, your lazy teenage drop out. He had left school at 16 to follow his musical career, but one year on...`

    So you've got your reader-grabbing opening and as much background as neccessary to be getting by on.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    doing it in conversation can be just as much a no-no 'info dump' as doing it in narrative, so there's no 'yes' or 'no' answer to your question, imo... it all depends on how you do it, not where... if done in dribs and drabs, not all in one unswell foop, it can work... if you have them go on and on about anything of a background nature in a conversation, it won't... expository conversations don't work as a rule, since unseasoned writers tend to make them too much an explanation and not 'natural' enough...

    so, there's no specific 'best way'... the best way is whatever way works!
     

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