Sunday, September 14, 2008

When too much is too much

I recently read a submission that got me thinking about this idea. When do you know you are giving the reader too much information? More importantly, where do you give the reader the information?

Most of this stems from the issue of backstory. I think that many writers feel the need to give us all of this backstory information early on so that they can get on with the real story. Unfortunately, this becomes a bit cumbersome to the reader. We eventually want to give up on the story entirely, even if the really good stuff is showing up later.

So, before you start giving us a ton of backstory, stop and ask yourself what the characters in the book really need to know. If they don't need to know it yet, does the reader? Consider also the idea that maybe only you as the writer needed the information to motivate the characters but this information is really not that necessary to the reader.

Consider also how you want to give us that information. Instead of using flashbacks (which are really a tough one to deal with) or the sudden moment of introspection from the character, try something like having the character make the reference to the other person in the room. Something like, "You know Bob, this is a lot like the time when my family was killed by vampire bunny rabbits." Ahh, now we see that the character has some revenge issues.

The key is to think about your reader. Put yourself in their place and try to think not as a writer but as someone that has picked up your book for the first time. What will they think?


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