1. Sparky19
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    Sparky19 Member

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    Interjecting Character Background in a 3rd Person Novel

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sparky19, Aug 21, 2016.

    First post here, I have a question I'm struggling with as I transition into novel writing. In my opening chapters I have been doing my best to 'show not tell' but its hard because I just want to grab my readers and say, "HEY THIS IS WHAT THIS CHARACTER HAS GOING ON". That being said I feel I've been slightly more subtle than that but still it comes off as kind of 'cheating' do you recommend I just back off and take more time with letting my reader get to know the character?
    I feel like in first person writers often don't have this problem because they can sort of just trail off with their characters inner monologues. Here is a brief example from my second chapter in which I do the sort of narrator interjection I'm talking about:

    “ Lyle will you need to leave early for the gymnasium?” Ted asked.

    “No, Sir Garum gave me the whole day off training seeing as I’ve a match with Adam tomorrow to see who’ll get to travel to The Rocks next week for a tournament,” Lyle replied.

    Ted raised an eyebrow at this, “The Rocks? Why would they send you to those dung holes?”

    Lyle shrugged, “Garum said an old nobleman there bid highest to host it, wants to see a bit of the games before he croaks or some-it, sounds like he’s built one of the nicer gymnasiums this side of the line if the rumors are true.”

    Ted nodded, apparently satisfied with the answer, and said, “We’ll have to roast half a boar for you tonight then.”

    “And a quarter deer,” Lyle shot back with a wide grin. He knew how proud his father was of his training, and still remembered how happy his father had been when he had joined the Gymnasia after he and his brother finished Formal Education at age 11. Since then he had excelled in wrestling and had been able to represent Ensbent in several tournaments held by the Crown in the last couple of years. His swordplay and melee were adequate but he stood a full head taller than his twin brother and a half head taller than his father, neither of whom were short men by any means. His height coupled with his uncommon strength lent itself more towards the physicality needed in wrestling rather than the dexterity needed for the melee.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first question is, why does the reader need to know this information? How much of it do they need, how soon will they need it, and why do they need it? That helps guide you in how to communicate it.
     
  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    For your example I'd suggest looking for a way to link the background exposition with what's going on currently. Lyle's father could come up in conversation, and you hook "he knew how proud his father was ..." to that, or you rework the exposition to lead with something about Lyle's appetite or taste for deer (maybe his dad makes a mean venison stew). Something less circumstantial and unimportant than food would make for a better transition, of course.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with what you've got now, except that the dialog hasn't got much to do with the exposition, so it kind of just comes out of left field and rather than being like "oh, interesting", I think "why do I need to know this right now?"
     
  4. Sparky19
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    Sparky19 Member

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    It helps explain some things about one of the MC's that comes up in the very next scene... Also I feel like I could delay the information and push it back to an extent but it would be 'kicking the can' and I would eventually just need to explain it in order for the reader to make sense of why the MC is going to the gymnasium or to the Rock's, or why he has uncanny strength. I appreciate the prompt response :)
     
  5. Sparky19
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    Sparky19 Member

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    I appreciate that! That is a really good point, I was so concerned with the question of whether or not I am "allowed" to do this as a 3rd person narrative that I didn't even really stop to think about the placement and context for the little tidbit. Thanks for the feedback.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But going to a gymnasium isn't that strange a thing. Now, if a character is packing up a big container of model trains and headed for NASA, that might require a little bit of explanation eventually--though as far as I'm concerned, the explanation can wait until he gets there. But you go to gymnasiums to do gymnasium things, and apparently he's going to that gymnasium to do gymnasium things. So I don't see a need for much advance explanation. His reasons and goals can come out in context, instead of being pre-explained in detail.
     

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