Giving Backstory WITHOUT Info Dumping?

This is the current challenge I’m facing with my WIP. I need to explain some backstory, as my protagonist’s character flaw stems from a death in her family that happened way in the past.

I know the first question I should be asking myself is “Is it really necessary information?” It is — without including it, my readers and critiquers are kind of like, “Meh, she’s just dramatic and sad.”

It’s actually a lot harder than I originally thought. I want to show and not tell, but it’s hard to “show” history. Just about every writer will tell you, “NEVER INFO DUMP. EVER!” (Imagine someone saying that you to in the same manner the Mythbusters always give their “never try this at home… EVER!” warning… hehe.)

But in my research, I’m finding that some writers say info dumping might be the only tool in certain situations. And if that’s the case, you’ve got to work to try to make this information matter to the reader now.

Some suggestions I’ve collected from various writer’s blogs on how to accomplish this include:

“The more your information dumps relate directly to a story element currently at play in your narrative, the easier it is to hold an audience’s attention.” – From Lit Reactor

“Add Tension:  Make the info dump something that causes problems for the characters.” – From Jami Gold’s Blog

“I think the key to making information entertaining is to entwine it with drama — and that means ensuring that the characters’ happiness is tied to it too.” – Ruv Draba, a moderator at Scribophile

Would anyone else care to offer their opinions, advice, or techniques for getting essential backstory to the reader without the dreaded info dump?

 

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It’s Nov. 1st – GOGOGOGO!!!

Hey NaNo’ers! (Like that? I think that’s a common term for us November novelists…) I know it’s been a while since my last update, but …

It’s that time of year again and I have to say I’m SO excited to be able to finally have the time to give NaNo a legitimate shot this go ’round. I have a rought idea in mind for a story I’d like to get down (perhaps I’ll share some tidbits if I end up liking it enough!), and I hope everyone else has at least an inkling of where to go with their rough drafts too!

For inspiration, I found a list on Twitter of novels that were published that actually began as NaNoWriMo projects. It includes one of my all-time favorite reads (and I highly, HIGHLY reccommend it after the craziness of this month is over!) The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. HOLY CRAP! I never knew! But the book is so great. Of course, as the article states, she didn’t publish it in it’s NaNo form. Heavy editing was applied before this one hit the shelves. 🙂

Another novel that was wildly popular (enough to be made into a MOVIE recently!) that doesn’t appear on the list but that I know began as a NaNo project is Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.

So there you have it, folks. Perhaps 50k in 30 days is the perfect motivation for some of us (including me) to get that first draft of a manuscript out of our heads and onto the page!

Also, for your reading pleasure, and perhaps as a help to get yourselves started: Do You Have a Plot?