marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

how much history

A fictional world without history is kind of thin, like clearly painted stage scenery.  And if it's all clearly focused on the Problem Our Heroes Face, it lacks the clutter that makes the scene realistic.

But it's as dangerous as any backstory that tempts you into using the past perfect, because it's not the present day.

Flashbacks, sometimes, work, but they can be even more dangerous when it's about events that didn't even happen to the characters.  And there's always the question, if you don't use an omniscient narrator, whether the characters would even notice what clues there were to history, and whether anything would remind them, and if they even know anything -- oral history is not reliable after about a century and a half, under the best of situations.

Sometimes the flashbacks are a clue you need to start earlier -- in a prologue if nowhere else -- but that can be problematic if there's a lot of it.  And if it's local-color history, it won't work in a prologue, which signals that "This is important!"

Sometimes you can push it back so that the story is well begun before the history comes in, but sometimes that makes it unintelligible.

The joys of writing
Tags: exposition, fictional history, local color, point of view, realism
Subscribe

  • so that's the problem

    figuring out the weakness of the opening: it's two scenes, and the first is mostly info-dumping. It should start in the forest, talking about…

  • weaving another thread

    Oh, my. This story bursts past in outlines in New and Unusual Ways. The entire -- long -- episode where she gets taken on a journey and shown a lot…

  • slithering in the explanations

    Finding places to explain why the children of royalty and nobility do not play with the children of servants, even when they are very young: because…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 3 comments