Tag Archives: show vs tell

The Telling of Backstory?

I recently completed my second draft of The Halley Branch.  Before I even think about doing a third draft, I need to solve an issue.  Maybe…

I have a bad habit in  my books to have a huge amount of history and backstory to fill out.  Sometimes backstory doesn’t need to be told, just implied, but in these stories, you have to know it to understand the present story.  I also include a lot of philosophy, which often is 100% needed to understand the story.  OK, so how do I get it out there?

In The Halley Branch I have four chapters that are dream like sequences where the main character has a dream or vision that tells him about the past (only one chapter is a dream).  I think this works well, but it only covers a couple of percent of backstory and philosophy.

So what did I do?  I have another four chapters of the main character talking to other people who tell him the history.  It all makes sense in the story and gives us pictures of the characters as much as it gives history and philosophy.  In other words, through the characters’ dialog I am telling you backstory, but I am also showing you vital information about the characters by their action, interaction, the words they chose, and how they chose to use them.

There are two problems, or two sides of one.  A lot of people would call this information dumping, which is really frowned upon today.  And people would say that it is “telling”, not “showing”, which is true.  However, I do have those other 30 chapters of showing, so do these four chapters ruin it? Continue reading