Thursday, January 24, 2008

The art of Info Dump or Backstory Blues

I just couldn't resist this one!

So I'm having that quandary that most writers have when they start the book, how to give the reader information about the heroine that's pertinent to the plot, without it being a big huge info dump that stops the story cold.

My heroine has an intense backstory that I need to dole out to the reader, so that they can know where she came from, and why she made the decision she makes in the book. And I need to do this without dropping it like a ton of bricks in the first chapter. Plus she has a huge secret that I need to reveal preferably before the end of chapter three.

This is why I admire Dan Brown. Say what you will about his paper-thin characters, and clunky prose, but he not only knows how to keep ratcheting up the tension and the plot but he's also the master of the info dump. Anyone who has read Angels and Demons or The DaVinci Code knows what I'm talking about. There's a lot of historical information that he gives the reader, but he does it in such a way that you are riveted and you want to know more about Bernini and the Popes. Or Mary Magdalene and the sacred feminine in The DaVinci Code. I can't think of another author who does it as well as Dan Brown.

Fortunately, there is a workshop at NEC in April that I plan on taking that deals with this exact issue. How and I also registered for National, although I almost gasped at the $425 fee since we aren't having a lunch on Saturday or an opening night reception. No more Starbucks and gossip mags for me until after the conference. I'll just have to make do with reading them at my local B&N. Seriously though, its not like the covers change that much. Every week either Brittany or Lindsay Lohan is on the cover. I don't think I'll be missing much. I can catch Brittany's latest drive-thru break-down on-line.

And the hotel is $225 a night! As much as I love staying at the conference hotel, I think I may have to stay near-by for less money.



Georgie Lee said...

I love the cat picture. No gossip rags! At work we have a gossip rag pool. It cuts down on the cost and keeps us all up to date on Britney :-)

As for info dumps, it's a challenge to sprinkle the backstory throughout the story without making it sound contrived. I try to do it in dialogue but like you I'm still learning.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Hi Georgie Lee!

I love the idea of a gossip rag pool. I share my magazines with a woman I work with and she could totally contribute to the kitty since she makes more money than me.

I had an epiphany last night of how I could include more backstory in dialogue in the first chapter. Thank god for photography!