Well, consider that the intention of fiction is to be the guy sitting around the campfire telling stories. Sometimes you want to be all philosophical, sometimes you want to educate, but mostly you just want to entertain.

Treating a work of fiction as if it were an encyclopaedia article is a hard job even if you are a topnotch bestselling writer.

"Show, don't tell" is the number one piece of advice given to writers. And that's because the acquisition of knowledge - about people, circumstances, relationships - is something most of us struggle with.

Imagine a television series where the actors sit around while a voice from the sky tells us who they are, how they relate to each other, what their jobs are and so on. For thirty minutes. While there's not a word from the actors.

Nobody's going to watch more than a few minutes.

What you as a fiction writer generally get is some limited ability to present the thoughts of one character, and you have to tell the rest of the story through dialogue and describing the actions of the characters.

If you read fiction with your writer's eyes open, looking for things to steal from the masters, that's what you get.

We as human beings weren't evolved to sit around and assimilate large chunks of description. But if we watch two people speaking together and watch what they do, we are pretty bloody good at working out who they are and how they relate to each other. Father and daughter? Husband and wife? Siblings? Lovers? Enemies?

We only need a few words to pick it up. Accept that your readers are as intelligent as you are, and let them work out the characters from a few well-chosen hints. A line of dialogue can save a page of backstory.

And it's a lot more fun than running around catching bucketloads of facts dropping out of the sky.

Britni

Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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