Sunday, July 31, 2005

Providing Background

All fiction needs to convey some information about the background of the story. What's the world like? Politically, socially, physically? Yet no reader wants to wade through a lot of information to follow the story. One of the most important skills in the craft of writing is conveying information subtly, in small, easily understood pieces. Too many facts at once, and you are guilty of creating an "expository lump". So rather than saying "Borzania was 12.5 miles wide (measured east to west), 17.37 miles from north to south, and contains two major lakes, Chuvo and Gandar. The country is ruled by a hereditary monarchy, and the current king is named Fletchit," you might have two characters discussing how long it would take to travel to some point in the next kingdom (which provides an opportunity to discuss the size of THIS one, while also conveying something about its rulership); they can debate how to get across one of the lakes; and so on. Remember the adage, "Show, Don't Tell" as well.

--Rachel Holmen

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