For some time now the beginning of my WiP has been giving me a headache. I don't hate it, but something just feels wrong and it is
The sad fact is, I am not J. K. Rowling.
I'm writing a sci fi story, and with that comes a great deal of world-building. One of the things that I can't stand as a reader is being plunked down in a world that I can make neither heads nor tails of. So just how much explanation is necessary? Example: As much as I loved Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky*, I was initially put off by the fact that I didn't really understand what was going on. Maybe I'm just thick. In the end, I loved the book and I'm really glad I didn't put it down.
I set out this morning searching the web for justification for my backstory infodump. Let me tell ya, there was very little to be had. General consensus: Infodumps blow chunks. Avoid them altogether. Stop. Just stop. To which I say: Great. The most popular piece of advice on this topic? Hack it out or weave it into the story in very small, palatable morsels. I bet you can't guess what's on my agenda today? From the sounds of it, infodumps are a rookie mistake and are often symptomatic of a bad case of telling instead of showing. And here I thought I had a handle on 'show don't tell'.
Two of my favourite books--Divergent and The Hunger Games--don't shy away from backstory or (slight) infodumps, but the authors do it so well you don't feel like reading it is a giant slog-fest. In both cases, more information is required for the reader to understand what the heck is going on. In Divergent we need to understand what the deal is with the factions and why they came to be. In The Hunger Games, it's pretty crucial that the reader has information early on about the Districts and about the Reaping itself. But neither author leads with this backstory. It's okay for the reader to have questions because that's what keeps them reading (Case in point: Why I stuck with Under the Never Sky and wasn't disappointed). You just have to hope that these questions you've raised are intriguing enough and your writing compelling enough for your readers to come along for the ride.
I'm sure much of this is old news to you, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on the issue. So what about you? Do you have a bad case of the dumps too? Do you hate infodumps and backstory?
*In this particular case, much was made clear(er) as the book went on.