Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Backstory Infodump

I’ve just spent the last ten or so minutes ranting about this topic on Twitter. Considering how many tweets I’ve made of it, I decided it might be easier and more convenient for me if I wrote a blog post about it, so here goes. Warning: This is one of my hot buttons, so I’m a little militant about it.

I read a certain Author’s books. Author is generally a good writer. Her characterization is logical, story events flow from one to another in a sensible fashion without getting far fetched, and she sticks to the worldbuilding rules which belong to the books set in this particular world without deviation. These are the reasons why I love the books and continue to buy any set in this particular world, though I’ve largely given up on her other books—those not set in this particular world. I appreciate the fact she continues to write in this world and hope she goes on to write many, many more books set in it.

What I find issue with is the Backstory Infodump she begins latter books of a series with. Her series’ first books generally start right off without a lot of Indodumping or Backstory which isn’t somehow directly tied into the current events happening in the opening chapter. In other words, all the knowledge and information the Reader gets is all that the point of view provides at the opening of the book.

I like this. This is Throwing The Reader Into The Story. I try to do this myself. I feel I can’t be the only Reader who appreciates reading a book which begins with an event which hooks them. I don’t mind a little confusion at the beginning, because I have faith I’ll still enjoy the book, even if I don’t get an explanation of things from the beginning of the book until near the end. Even if I don’t get any explanation at all, I still enjoy the book. But, usually, I do find explanations, if not related at some point when it becomes pertinent to do so, then through context.

I try to give information as it relates to current events. This prevents Reader confusion as well as enables me to provide it without performing any kind of Infodump. I especially do my best to avoid writing (or leaving in my writing, if I put it in) Backstory Infodumps. I avoid this with Worldbuilding Infodumps as well. I just do not see a reason why I need to dump a series of paragraphs explaining such things all at once, when, with a little time and attention and effort, I can find places to include such things in a more reasonable manner. I figure, if my eyes glaze over when I’m reading over my own Infodumps, then Readers’ eyes will too, and, worse, they may be induced to stop reading. And, if they are induced to stop reading my book, they may not pick it up again.

I want Readers to be entertained enough to continue reading. I’d very much like them to be so hooked by what they’re reading they can’t put the book down, but any kind of Infodumping ruins that effect.

And that’s what I do with this Author’s books. I read a paragraph or two, maybe a page. Put the book down and do something more interesting. Eventually, I realize I’m bored, so I pick up the book again, because reading the Backstory Infodump at the beginning is more “entertaining” than staring at nothing. I get maybe a few more paragraphs, then put the book down again, because I’m too bored by what I’m reading. Yes, I know I could skip or skim over this, but then I might miss any new information the Author may have included. Not only that, I feel, a little, as if my intelligence is being insulted.

I am completely capable of keeping up with a story where I lack information. Lack of the information actually keeps me interested, because I want to find out what that information is. If it’s Backstory Infodump in the second or later book in a series, I’ve read the other book(s) again, so I do know what happened before. I don’t need the Backstory all at once. Even if I haven’t read the previous books, I still probably don’t need the Backstory Infodump all up front, because I’m content with what’s happening in the new book. It sometimes satisfies me perfectly well just to know this particular character has a history and I’m not particularly interested in being bludgeoned with it when I pick up the latter books in the series.

If this Author’s books weren’t so good in other ways, I would never have picked up another series of hers. I have her to thank for inspiring me to write better relations of Backstory. It doesn’t take much. Just a little time, attention, and effort, and those are all things I’m quite willing to expend on my writing.

I know I may offend some Readers with the way I begin latter books in series I write. But I also trust my Readers to follow along until they reach the bits of Backstory I’ve included in the books. I think, if I’m capable of keeping up with a book when I don’t have all the information, my Readers will be too.

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