|Photo credit: glassghost on Flickr|
So here we are.
Revealing history and/or background information in your WIP can be tricky—if you reveal too much at once, it’s an info dump, but if you don’t reveal enough, readers may be left with a lot of questions, or the world of your novel may come off as flat and unfinished. The right amount is somewhere in between, and oftentimes it takes quite a bit of tweaking to get it right.
The good news is there are several methods that you can use to sprinkle in whatever information you need to convey without dumping it all at once:
- Dialogue. This one is pretty easy. Your characters are having a conversation, and whatever background information you’re trying to convey comes up. Maybe it’s a bit of world history, or information about one of the characters (or another character), or something else entirely. Whatever you choose, just make sure it sounds natural—your character shouldn’t start spouting off pages upon pages of world history in mid-conversation, no matter how relevant. The key here is to use as little as possible to convey what you need.
- Thoughts. Similar to dialogue, all this requires is your POV character thinking about the background information you want to convey. Of course, this only works if your POV character knows the background information. But even if he/she doesn’t know, this could be a way to start making your readers wonder about said information by having your POV character think about it.
- Relate to current scene. If you’re writing in first person, then this most likely is going to happen within your POV character’s thoughts. In third person, however, this can sometimes work as a sort of related aside. For example, when describing a certain building, you may, if relevant, mention a little about the history behind the building, or the area, or a certain aspect of a building (for example, a statue or architectural aesthetic). Again, brevity is your friend here.
- Flashbacks. Flashbacks are often a favorite, but they should be used with caution. While they’re absolutely wonderful for showing us some of your character’s background without info dumping, flashbacks can sometimes be jarring to the reader. The key here, is to choose the right place to put them, and not use them too often. A few flashbacks are okay—twenty in one WIP are not recommended.
So those are just a couple methods to sprinkle background information into a MS, but now I want to hear from you—what methods do you know of for revealing background information gradually?
Struggling to reveal background information without info-dumping? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)
Writer @Ava_Jae shares four methods for revealing background information without info-dumping. Have you used these? (Click to tweet)