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Any tips?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Rkcapps, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Mystagogue

    I'm incorporating some of my world's history and I'm wondering about any tips? I'm not info dumping, I'm having a character reveal bits and my mc interrupt with questions to break it up. However i still feel this is a chuck of dialogue that slows the plot. I feel like I should scatter bits of the history in little bits throughout the book. What do you do/recommend?
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

    Questions to ponder:

    How much of your worlds history is common knowledge? (something characters would already know)

    Do the characters in question care about the history, or find it relevant to their situation?

    Suggestion: One of the characters finds the history in question so offensive they throw a fit before more than a bare bones explanation can be given.
    MrBrightsider and Rkcapps like this.
  3. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Lore Master

    In the real world there are festivals, ceremonies, parades, memorial services and other events held to commemorate historical events. Having one of your main characters attend one of these events for the first time or having them bring along someone else who has never attended the event would be a good way to introduce some history without it sounding like an info-dump or contrived. It would add a bit of spice to the dialogue if the event is controversial. Think of the "Orange Walk" every July 12th in Northern Ireland that commemorates the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.

    In my work in progress my protagonist walks into the real estate agent's office to find a place to rent. She sees an advert for a house that she thinks is a mistake because it's selling for so cheap. The real estate agent tells her it's not a mistake. He says the house is cheap because it was used as an interrogation (i.e torture) centre during the World War when the town was occupied by enemy armies. No info-dump but you get a major history lesson. As the World War only ended twenty years ago it's still within living memory for most adults.

    Other ways of discussing the history of the country my WIP is set is through snippets of overheard conversation, a movie poster (my world has the technology of the 1930s), a visit to a refuge for retired war mammoths, a rant on a radio show, a simple plaque on a battle field and even my protagonist tripping over a human skull and having a flash back to her horrible History teacher talking about a terrible disaster.
    Malik and Rkcapps like this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    I have two questions for you to consider.

    One, why is this information essential for the reader to know at this precise point in the story?
    Two, why is this information essential for the character to know at this precise point in the story?

    I never have tips; I only have questions. :)
    MrBrightsider and Dark Squiggle like this.
  5. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Mystagogue

    Good questions :) It's part of the decision to go on the journey. I've cut it back to just what my mc needs to know. So, it's more a using the history to help make the decision.
  6. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

    And in asking questions, you provide valuable tips!
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    Socrates says it's good to be methodical. <g>
    Rkcapps likes this.
  8. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

    Very much what Miles said above.

    My series begins in a small town built around a castle with one tower that settled and now leans crazily but hasn't yet fallen down. The town has a festival holiday once a year in which people bet whether or not the tower will last until next year's festival. The book opens during preparations for the Tower Day festival. Tower Day gives you everything you need to know to set the story rolling: a fantasy setting where not everything is Disney-perfect and where the people have a dark sense of humor about it.

    Holidays, memorials, graveyards, ceremonies, taboos, even in-jokes. (How's the beer, here?" "Are you kidding? Out back there are three elves trying to steal a mule.")

    All of this, and your characters' interaction with it, will help deepen the world and show the values and the history.
    Night Gardener and Rkcapps like this.
  9. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord


    Have you considered children's rhymes as a means of inculcating history without the lesson? Eg in the real world, ring a ring a rosie - is a rhyme about the black death. Likewise you could use insults eg - oh you *** (insert name here) where the *** refers to an actor from a past historical event.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  10. CoffeeFlower

    CoffeeFlower Apprentice

    Rhymes are good. I'd use festivals too.

    In my project characters discover a bit of history every time they interact with the main characters
    Rkcapps likes this.
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

    In our day-to-day lives, how often do we think of our own world history? How often do we think about the history of our local landmarks?

    Of course, this will vary from person to person. Miles's example of the realtor is a good case in point. Besides scholars, many other professions might make use of historical knowledge, like that realtor. Or a politician. Or an activist. Or a city planner.

    But this is what makes dialogue or character-based info dumping problematic. My family, friends, and many acquaintances probably pass by historical landmarks every day without giving the history behind those landmarks much thought. Most probably won't know the full history behind those things, and even those who do know this might have little interest in discussing the details.

    So choosing those little mouthpieces for history should probably be determined by other aspects of plot development. Simply inserting a realtor for no reason other than to have an excuse for inserting some history into the narrative probably wouldn't be a good idea. However, if having a realtor present for the revelation fits the flow of the narrative, then go for it.

    Lots of opportunities might arise if the MC is thrown into the thick of things. If the plot (or milieu) revolves around reverberations from the recesses of history, then the MC might well have opportunities to meet others who have more knowledge of history than the common person would have, at least more than she will have--and perhaps those individuals will have more interest in discussing history.

    Still, Miles's example is great. Even locals who know the history may abridge it, summarize it, with a simple off-hand comment about it. They may take it for granted, especially if the history is part of the fabric of that society's narrative about itself. When I was barely nineteen, in the early 90's, I was walking with a gay friend along some street in San Francisco, and I saw a plaque with a name on it. I said, "Who's that?" I was from the Midwest U.S. and hadn't been in California for long. My friend was flabbergasted; he said, "...That's Harvey Milk? He was in the government and was assassinated for being gay...?" I'm not sure how I'd write that in a story; I've included the question mark to express his way of speaking with disbelief that I'd never heard of Harvey Milk to that point. But then we walked on.
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  12. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

    I've always had a soft spot for elderly, salty, cantankerous people arguing with each other about the facts of what "actually happened" when a younger person asks what the significance of 'something' is. Especially if one or both are hard of hearing.

    So, I would add to this thread, characters arguing or in dispute while directly explaining to another character, or within earshot of the MC.

    Two retired soilders from opposite sides of the conflict are going to offer different insights to the history lesson of what happened and why.

    Waiting in line at a government office, and listening to a citizen yell at the magistrate because laws on the books since when/whatever aren't being enforced fairly.

    A shopkeeper warning a newcomer harvesting mushrooms to stay away from 2 feuding family clans in the west valley, because they hate each other, but they hate trespassers even more. And even the sheriff is afraid of them, so if the newcomer goes missing, nobody is going to go look for him.

    Newspaper headlines about current events that reference the past, expecting locals to know and fill in the details as common history.

    Disagreement (or warnings) are a great vehicle to convey information to 3rd parties without too much clumsy info-dumping.
    elemtilas and Rkcapps like this.
  13. Laurence

    Laurence Grandmaster

    Do that scene, spread a bunch of info throughout the book then decide what can be reduced when you edit.
    Skybreaker Sin K'al likes this.
  14. Skybreaker Sin K'al

    Skybreaker Sin K'al Lore Master

    Sometimes you just need to get some crucial backstory over to the reader. If it feels like it slows the plot, then it should be doing something useful to the plot later on. This is what I call "justified infodumping".
    Rkcapps likes this.
  15. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Mystagogue

    Slipping it in like a thief in the night is one good option.
    In our world we have celebrations, festivals, holidays. So if a piece of your history is relevant to the plot maybe something is being celebrated in connection to that. Some cultures/religions have days to remember bad things that happened and try to include kids/teens into it, as a teaching for them to not make the same mistake. That is a good way too do without someone randomly bringing up history from 100 years ago. People would have a reason to discuss it and it brings your world alive.
    Rkcapps and Skybreaker Sin K'al like this.

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