1. Rodrian
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    Rodrian New Member

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    Putting too much history in a glob

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rodrian, Jan 23, 2012.

    Hey everyone, I'm new. I realize that sometimes i might put too much history/backstory in places! But then if i don't, i'm scared that there isn't ENOUGH information :/ how to work around this crazy problem?
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like having lots of backstories for all my major characters too, and I know what you mean. What helps me is, in the planning stages, write personal histories for various characters, as if I am going to put that in the novel. Then, when I start writing, I keep referring to that text in my mind, because it usually helps enormously with the character arc. Or even, if I can't help it, I'll put the backstory in the first draft. Once I do the second and the third draft, if it is superfluous, I end up cutting it out and if not, then I leave it in.
     
  3. Rodrian
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    Rodrian New Member

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    Thanks! I just started making a "history" two days ago because i had no idea how the place ever came to be. lol. why are some places named what they are, etc. etc. DO you put much of the history in the dialogue, or, in the general writing? Or do you think it's best to spread it out somehow. I'm scared sometimes to write it in dialogue because i don't want to sound preachy to whomever they are speaking to o.o am i worrying too much?
     
  4. Jared King
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    Jared King Member

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    You're not worrying too much. I think there is a fine line between not enough information and too much. If you give too little, your readers might end up confused. However, put too much and you don't allow them to use their own imaginations. I think the idea is to tell enough that the reader knows that there is some history there, giving some hints of what it might be, but never go out and explain it fully unless you need to in order to progress your plot. Just try and find that middle ground and you should be alright. It might take a draft or two but eventually you'll figure out the right amount to put in.
     
  5. Rodrian
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    Rodrian New Member

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    thank you Jared! I will try to keep that in mind!
     
  6. Enzo03
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    Enzo03 Member

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    The way I see it is that it is good if the information is important to know. Sure, there are almost always parts of stuff like this that aren't actually important to the story but as long as you don't get too overly carried away and start making something that could be the basis for, say, another book series, then it should be fine. :)

    When I was writing for my Literature and Composition class in high school, I unfortunately got carried away by something like this and the result was that half of the "short" story didn't have anything to do with what the story is supposed to be about.
     
  7. Rodrian
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    Rodrian New Member

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    ugh that's what i am worried about...being carried away. I am at this part where the narrator is thinking on the past. Like the way past of what she has been taught and a little of her current situation. And this history is thought about in-between dialogue in this one instance. So when the dialogue returns, one could potentially forget what was being discussed x_x; I'm only 100 pages into the story so i am trying to fix bugs before i keep writing off into the sunset so to speak.
     
  8. Enzo03
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    Enzo03 Member

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    Ah. I know what those are like. And ha, not a bad pun there.

    I think it would be a good idea to try splitting up the thought where appropriate. Have some of it be where it is at right now, maybe fix it up so that it can comfortably end before the dialogue returns. Maybe after the conversation she still has her mind on the thoughts and it can more or less continue from there?
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Easier said than done, but I keep asking myself, does the reader need to know "this", or will just a hint that "this" happened suffice? It's usually most apparent when my betas read it, as they don't know any of the backstory except what I've included, so if they're confused (or alternately, bored), I know exactly where the boundaries lie. Another reason to have someone else read your stuff. :)
     
  10. Rodrian
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    Rodrian New Member

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    OKay, I am going to try both. I'll break it up! I have had two other people read it, but they are family and sometimes i wonder if they are being honest. I am sending it to a bookpal today (she and I read a lot of the same books so i figure she likes the same genre's and style that i do). I am in high hopes that she is honest!

    I won't be posting any of it on these boards just yet... i want to read what everyone is doodling around with and get plenty of advice first :)
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write story, not back story.

    Let enough of the background details filter into the story to support it, but stick to the story you are writing. The little hints about the background will tantalize the reader, but keep it relevent.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Most beginning writers err on the side of putting way too much information in. Information the reader neither wants nor needs. When you say you are afraid there isn't enough information...enough for what purpose? Does the reader need it to understand the story?
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is a very fine art, striking a good balance between what you know as a writer and what you tell the reader and when. Dialogue is particularly difficult because even though we all speak, not many people actually analyse other people's speech. Real speech is peculiar and particular, it omits a lot more than we tend to write or think, so getting the dialogue right is not easy. Usually you can tell, if you read the dialogue out loud, whether it sounds like real speech or not.
    Also, what I find helpful is to identify a person or a character either real or from the movies or tv, that I model my character on, speech wise. For example Riddick (Chronicles of Riddick). My character can be a surgeon from the Victorian London, if I have Riddick's speech in my mind, it doesn't matter what my surgeon is talking about, I will still know exactly the way Riddick would say it. In that way, I actually manage to write quite realistic dialogues.

    I don't know if you read "The Count of Monte Cristo". It is a very interesting, page-turner book, which is written almost entirely in dialogue. And big chunks of it too. And despite that, they never read as boring or preachy. So reading the books that nailed the dialogue/monologue can also help to give you an idea how it can be done right :)
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be particularly cautious about putting history in dialogue. An example of how to do it very very badly:

    Bad bad bad dialogue begins:

    Fred said, "As you know, Joe, my father - the chief, a traditionally inherited role in our tribe, though my father broke precedent by being elected - taught me to make Grog, our traditional drink made from fermented rice hulls."

    Joe nodded. "Your father explained it to me once. Even though Grog is normally made by the women of our tribe, as a carryover from ancient times when we were a matriarchal society, he though that it would be good for you to have the skill, since the famine of the past few decades makes it difficult to obtain the materials, and Grog is an essential cure to many diseases and poisons, including the mind-clouding fungus that is brought over by our former allies, now enemies, the Western Traders."

    Fred smiled. "Yes, Joe, my best friend since we were eight and were brought together by the battle in our village, you're right - as you often are, due to the intelligence that you inherited from your mother, the wise woman that my father once fell in love with, before he married my own mother, a less beautiful but wise and sweet-tempered woman who makes the best honeycakes in the village. Could you pass me that bottle of water?"

    Bad bad bad dialogue ends.

    You could tuck a _little_ of the same information in with:

    "Joe. Joe! Hand me that bottle of water."
    Joe rolled his eyes and didn't move from the fire. "Making Grog again? No, thank you. I'm still not a sixteen year old girl."
    Fred shook the nearly-empty Grog bottle. "So you'd rather die of Red Fungus than do a little woman's work?"


    But I think that it's important to consider how much information the reader actually needs, and also to trust the readers to be smarter than you think they are.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak: omg, the bad, bad dialogue made me chuckle and cringe at the same time, well done :D
     
  16. The wonderer
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    The wonderer New Member

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    You just need to give the details slowly, don't go over the top. Otherwise you would bore the reader, so balance it all out with story telling and giving backgrounds of the charaters and the setting. When you feel that you got a enough background, then you can start telling the story.

    I hope that helps.
     

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