Sunday, June 17, 2007

Common Writing Mistake #527

I'm judging another RWA contest, and my entries reminded me of another issue I see over and over again in unpublished and sometimes published work: figuring out where to begin. There are two opposing errors:

1. Backstory Infodump: Opening pages serve merely to introduce the protagonist and her background, with no conflict or plot in sight till sometime around Chapter Two.

2. Sure She's in Peril, but Why Should I Care? In this case, the writer has absorbed the lesson about beginning where the changes in the protagonist's life start, but doesn't tell me enough about the character and how she got into this particular fix for me as a reader to much care if she ever gets out of it.

Finding the middle ground is a balancing act, and I'm by no means certain I always get it right. I know I tend toward the infodump, because how can you, the reader, possibly understand my story without ten pages of general historical background, plus a biography telling you everything that happened in my hero's life in the 36 years before he walks into the opening of Chapter One? At least I know it's wrong and that I should look for it when I edit, but somehow that doesn't prevent me from doing the infodump in the first place.

1 comment:

Tess said...

Finding the balance indeed. One of my mss starts pretty much in medias res, so you really don't learn much about my heroine except she wants to stay where she is to find her brother rather than being rescued. I do worry about not getting that ordinary world thing in, but OTOH, I also want to hook my reader! It's so tough!