1. diamonds overun
    Offline

    diamonds overun Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2009
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Australia

    Question about getting information across to the reader

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by diamonds overun, Jun 10, 2009.

    Ok so a long Question but bear with me here please.

    Reading trough some of the posts I have discovered some big no no’s including info dumps, lots of back story etc. I was looking at what I have written so far an I am worried that maybe it is an info dump or back story.

    The main story happens in the teen and early adult years but I have started the story in child hood, ages 5 and 7.

    I needed to get the sisters relationship and personality’s clear right at the beginning because during the first few chapters these things change subtly and I don’t want to have to point it out to readers I want them to discover it for themselves and form their own opinions of the characters.

    I have not done a shopping list style “she was a bright and happy child and the sisters loved each other greatly”. I have written about some events, big and small which show that one sister is easy going and looks after the other while the other is sullen and bossy. This is shown in their actions I don’t actually describe their personality.

    The events I chose tie back into the story, but not until the end.

    I read a lot of Maeve Binchy style books where you get a chapter or two of child hood before you get into the main story in the teens or early adult hood and I have never seen anything wrong with it, but treading some of the posts here and advice other places it makes me feel as though there is something wrong with that style.

    I also read the fantasy epic where all the back story is dumped at the beginning and I don’t feel that’s what mine does.

    I had thought of introducing the child hood stuff through out the story but you wouldn’t get an instant feel for the relationship, and I hate the flash back and I didn’t want lots of conversations between charters of the “remember when” thread.

    So my question is if you were to read a book like what I described would you think it was an info dump or unnecessary back story that could be woven in through out the story?

    If you do how would you get the info across?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    What you've done is fine, if a little unfashionable. Nowadays, authors often feel the need to deliver exposition in original/unusual ways, hence the idea of going back and forth between past and present and all those sorts of things, but if you read Dickens or any of those kinda social realist authors, you'll find that they too do that kind of thing, beginning with the MC's grandfather and going from there...as long as what you've written is genuinely interesting, necessary, and well written, there isn't a problem with beginning in the characters' pasts.
     
  3. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    One way, admittedly very cheap, that I've used to deal with that is to begin as if you're just going to tell the story. But have the character open a letter a few paragraphs in, just after the introduction and maybe a brief bit of dialogue, which subtly hints at what went on before. Fill in the details later with well-spaced dialogue.
     
  4. diamonds overun
    Offline

    diamonds overun Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2009
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Australia
    I had though of having the character thinking on their past, similar to what you suggested with a letter, adn actually have them reading an old journal but it didnt write well.

    thanks arron i love dickens.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    If the backstory is actual STORY, you can go ahead and begin with it. But you have to get the reader involved in the story from the beginning. There have to be conflicts, problems to solve, the same elements as in the primary story.

    But if you inundate the reader with background data, you won't have a reader for very long.
     
  6. Dcoin
    Offline

    Dcoin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    NYC
    I think the major issue I have with the info dump/backstory is that it hits the reader all at once.

    I try to find a way to mix in backstory with current action. Its actually easier if you write paragraph-sized backstory chunks, rather then plating it all at once.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There is a common obsession, mostly among new writers, that they MUST explain before they dive into the story. It's always better to begin by causing the reader to raise questions. Who is this person? What is really happening here and why?

    Questions keep the reader interested. If he or she always has answers, it's easy to put the book aside and get back to it never.

    Give the reader enough time to get to know your character before the character begins to evolve. It isn't background you need to reveal, it's the initial state of the characters.
     
  8. lynneandlynn
    Offline

    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    746
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    Personally I find that the novel I'm working at requires a separate novel with the 'backstory' because the MC is very unusual (since I've never encountered anyone like him in any story I've ever read, I think he's unusual at least...). But a lot of the 'backstory' novel is being written purely for my own enjoyment so that it will make writing the actual novel easier since I won't have the urge to explain every little thing that happens.

    ~Lynn
     
  9. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Sometimes backstory is so good that I can't wait for the next flashback so I can see what happened in the past where it left off last. This is sort of a frame story, however.
     
  10. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Front-loading information to establish a relationship, mainly through telling--that's what the description in the initial post read like--generally turns the reader off.

    If you feel you must have the original relationship between the siblings established, consider accomplishing it through the context of action/interaction in a scene or maybe two at or near the beginning, but not with a variety if instances "big and small", and trust the reader to be smart enough to pick up on it. This will allow you to move on with the actual story.

    Just a thought.

    Terry
     
  11. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    The story starts where it starts. . . If you slip into a telling mode then it's going to be an infodump. But if you treat the childhood segment the same as the rest of the story, showing what occured, it should be fine. As long as you have actions, reactions, dialogue, conflicts, questions - all the usual things to keep a reader's attention - I don't see anything wrong with this. Just try to make it stand on its own as a kind of short story.
     
  12. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I don't entirely agree with this. One of the key decisions the writer has to make is in regards to the story's scope. The story exists as a slice from a created reality. No matter how you slice it, there will be tendrils reaching outy from both ends of the slice. As a writer, you do need to choose where to make the incisions to best display The Story, and how to incorporate the key bits of information that exist outside the slice.
     
  13. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    You're right as usual, Cog. But from what the OP has said, this story really begins in childhood. From my understanding there doesn't seem to be much of a choice (although, as it isn't my book, I don't really know). Too much backtracking only bogs the main story down. Lack of perspective or detail can cripple the story. When you get to the point where that's a serious problem it is generally better to just start at the beginning, imo.
     
  14. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Or else rethink how much previous baggage you need to import. Leave the rest for a prequel ;)
     
  15. diamonds overun
    Offline

    diamonds overun Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2009
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Australia
    Thank you guys for so much info.

    The story does seem to be starting in the past, problem is i have not been writing chronologically or even in chapter orders. I have a plot with some details filled in and i am kind of writing bits here and there. I think this is my main problem.

    The start does have soem conflict and there are questions raised, which are unanswered and i hope will encouragethe reader to stick with it.

    I am going to start at the begining and work my way through, see if that sorts things out.

    After i am a few chapters in i will go back and read the whole lot to see how it fits, maybe even i might post it here for opinions.

    I can always chop it if it not working.
     
  16. Cheeno
    Offline

    Cheeno Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Ireland
    Whether you use flashback or a prologue type of intro, be careful it stays relevant and pertinent to what comes after. Even if the object is to acquaint us with the historical shaping of your mc, you're onto a loser if you dawdle in tangental events. So, be specific in what you write, taking into careful consideration the consequences of events. Good luck with it.
     

Share This Page