Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Avoiding the Backstory Infodump by Using Layers

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we're talking about backstory. Every character has one, but no one wants it shoved in their face in huge chunks. I'll be giving you some ways to work the yummy goodness in as your story progresses so you can avoid the dreaded infodump. Ready? Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!


#1: Throw out tidbits in dialogue
This one can be fun. Say you have two characters arguing. One friend screams at the main character about an embarrassing or revealing thing that happened in the past that shaped the MC's personality. Boom. Backstory. One character can also be talking to another and reveal something about the MC's past to explain why he/she reacted the way they did in a situation. There's no need for a whole conversation about it; just throw things in here or there.

#2: First person thoughts
I have an excellent example of this one! In Fractured Glass Kelly Risser lets Sloan remember a time when she and Diego rode an amusement park ride and he yakked afterward. This reveal came when he groaned through her earpiece after she flipped around and around, and she needed to recall his motion sickness issue. It flowed right into the story, but gave the reader a better understanding of Diego.

#3: Memories
This one can be a bit tricky. Some people go into memories as a whole separate scene, but they don't have to be set apart. You can add a snatch of them here and there like sprinkles, rather than dredging the entire cupcake and leaving the reader with a mouth full of pasty yuck. When the character sees a rose, he/she can have three lines of memory that recalls the funeral of a good friend. Don't get bogged down in details.

#4: Third person narrative
While it isn't the best way to work in a lot of drama, you can have the narrator recall a situation where the MC changed or did something amazing/horrid. "This one time, at band camp, Harry and Joe..." You get my point.

#5: Long flashbacks or dreams
This is where you cut out a chunk of story and lend it to the character's drama. It becomes a whole separate scene in the chapter where you go into feelings, who, what, when, and where. Long flashbacks should be used sparingly (italics are hard on the eyes). If in a dream sequence, try offsetting it with asterisks rather than setting in italics. Be sure you're setting time and space in there somewhere so you don't lose the reader.

#6: Paperwork
Exactly what it says. Maybe the character finds an old newspaper article stuffed in a photo album that was locked in a trunk in the attic for fifty years. Perhaps it's birth certificates. If you're V. C. Andrews, it would most certainly be the latter, and the document revealing Mom and Dad as brother and sister won't be discovered by the child until the last page of the last book. Yikes.

Something important to remember: Don't use these items until your story has been well established. Readers need some mystery as they dive into the prose, and most don't want to be dumped on early in the novel. When there's nothing left to discover, why keep reading?

I hope you found these tips useful.

Any you hadn't thought of?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

4 comments:

  1. This is tough to do, so these tips will be very helpful. Wonderful post!

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it? I infodump all the time and end up having to take it out and find a new way to exposition it. LOL Thanks for the comment :)

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