Monday, June 25, 2012

How Much Background Info is Enough? A Checklist.

By Mar Preston, @YesMarPreston

mar prestonMy Dave Mason police procedural series is about the Santa Monica Police Department and the city itself, a tourist destination with a colorful background, present, and future.

I love Santa Monica, but will others care that much? What is critical information for me, the story teller, and a historical aside to someone else? This checklist is for me as well as you:

* What’s your main story? Think of it a as smooth, linear narrative and then think of a python with a big expository lump coming through.

* Can you fix it so something happens while the data dump is coming through?

* Is this a section in which nothing happens but a lot of expository information is set in to bring the reader up to date?

* How can you rewrite this until you can get across that information—and make the story progress at the same time?

* Can your character have a good reason to explain all this to someone else?

* Can your character read this info in a report, see it on TV, do an internet search?

* Can you do this in dialogue while something exciting is taking place?

* How can you show this rather than telling it?

* How can you reveal the critical information a little at a time by creating tantalizing hints?

* Ask yourself. Could I leave this out? Is this important? Are you sure?

* If it’s important, ask yourself whether it needs to be told now? Can it wait?

* Is this much description of the setting necessary? Why?

* Is this a personal rant? Some passionate opinion you just have to get in somehow?

* Is your reader an idiot? If not, how hard do you want a reader to have to work?

No DiceMar Preston is the author of No Dice and Rip-Off, both set in Santa Monica and featuring Detective Dave Mason of the SMPD and his community activist girlfriend.

Both are available as paperbacks at Amazon.

Ebook versions are available at Amazon and Smashwords.

See her website at