Revisiting “Managing Background Information 107-02”

Once again I find myself revisiting old posts and tuning them up.

This time I’ve revisited 107-02, Managing Background Information.

Here’s an excerpt:

5 Methods for Inserting New Information

  1. Create a minor conflict. For example, In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the story creates two minor conflicts that are solved when Hermoine creates magical blue flames, which later become relevant to the climax.
  2. Give a character a hobby or personal interest in the topic. If it’s relevant to the plot that the audience know a few things about ships, then introduce two minor characters who happen to be debating the topic of ships, and insert the relevant details into their conversation. The main characters walk by and happen to overhear what they say. Another method is for a major character to quietly demonstrate their interest. Perhaps they carry around a picture of a ship, or often admire them. Another character could ask them “what are you looking at?” or “why do you always head down to the harbor whenever we reach a town?”
  3. Someone realizes they have a question. In the heat of the moment, events can move very fast. Whether it’s a fight, an accident, or an argument, there isn’t always time to think things through. It isn’t until characters catch their breath that they realize something doesn’t make sense. A Song of Ice & Fire is full of characters so blinded by anger or fear that they rashly leap to conclusions, realizing too late that they’ve been manipulated.
  4. Find a lull in the story, a moment where characters are resting, traveling, or otherwise bored. Someone asks a question, and the answer turns into a story. The question can be about names, or what some old structure is, or why another character behaves a certain way. Someone begins to answer the question, and in the process they reveal more. Fellowship of the Ring is full of stories. Audiences first learn of Moria’s in Rivendell, long before they are forced to make their way through it.
  5. Turn the information into a secret. Someone knew, but for some reason they didn’t want to reveal it. It could be a secret they promised to keep, part of a plan they can’t reveal (for fear of interference), a painful subject, or even something they fear to reveal. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has things they don’t like about themselves, and most try to hide them.
  6. Introduce a new complication, or obstacle, and one of the characters happens to know relevant information. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and Aragorn are both fountains of information, but they only reveal what’s relevant at the time. Aragorn doesn’t go into the history of Weathertop, or the nature of the people of Rohan, until the story warrants it.

3 thoughts on “Revisiting “Managing Background Information 107-02”

    • Thank you.
      I think it’s important to go back and revisit our ideas about writing, consider whether our views have changed, keep evolving our understanding. Often I have nothing to add, but once in a while…

  1. Introducing relevant information is definitely a difficult one sometimes! I have read too many books where some sort of information is just shoved in without forethought, or it’s just used in a climax and it has me, as a reader thinking “well, how could I have predicted THAT?!” …and, not in a good way!

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