And in truth, backstory dumps do the exact opposite of keeping the reader hanging (as in, hanging on every word). Instead they keep the reader closing the book or throwing it across the room.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. On Sunday I posted about how I was planning to write about backstory dumps and then got waylaid by rearranging my office. I planned to ruminate while I rearranged. I ruminated, alright, but not about backstory dumps.
I ruminated about the perfect place to position my new table and how, exactly, I should place my desk in relationship to it. And then there were the shelves to worry about. And my reading chair. And the precise placement of the lamp. And….well, you get the picture.
I got everything rearranged all by my lonesome, which took hours of pushing and pulling and grunting and swearing because would anybody else in this household deign to walk up the stairs and help me? Oh, no. And then it was imperative to sit and ruminate on how wonderful this new arrangement is.
And then I had to write the Ebook that I should have been working on all weekend. 20 page Ebook in one day, I think its a new world record. Deadlines are a powerful motivator.
So all that is why I’ve not written about backstory dumps. And, oh dear, come to think of it, I just wrote a long backstory dump before getting to the point. I swear to God I am not clever enough to have thought of this ahead of time.
Okay, okay–so what is a backstory dump? It is when you are reading a novel (or a blog) and you are right in the middle of the action (or an explanation) and the author digresses to go blah blah blahing about something that happened in the past.
We authors often think that readers need to know everything about our reader. Like what the doctor said at the moment of her birth, and a blow by blow desciption of her life since then. It’s because we authors tend to fall deeply in love with our characters.
But you, the reader, do not need to know every detail of our character’s life–just as you probably didn’t really need to know every detail of my office rearrangement. (Just be glad I’m not much of a photographer, or I’d be plastering photos of it all over my blog.)
Backstory dumps are when the author doesn’t know how else to get in backstory (artfully, a little at a time, the way real humans remember things–how often do you sit and remember a whole story from your past from beginning to end?) and they just dump it all in.
But what the reader really wants is action. So be wary of backstory dumps. And may God forgive me for doing one while writing this post. But He/She/It probably won’t. I’m probably on my way to a special fiery hell reserved for writers who write too damn much.
Just give me something to write with and I’ll be okay. Hot and sweaty, but okay.