T.M.I. in your novel…

mustache pixDid you ever have a conversation with someone who wanted to share a wee bit too much personal info a wee bit to early in your relationship? Mayhap, you didn’t really want to know about your new friend’s gynecological status or something along those lines? I have an ongoing disagreement with my editor about the topic of how much information should be delivered to the reader in the first few chapters. My editor’s perspective runs thusly, “the reader needs to know the basic problem, life situation and pertinent character history to he/she can feel grounded in the story and not overly confused.”

My perspective runs more along these lines: “I want to be confused as a reader. I want to be dropped right into that story and learn the salient bits as I go along.”

You see the conflict here? I feel the first way is too formulaic, reveals too much in the beginning that I want to discover later. The second way, however, can leave the reader confused and prone to putting the book down and never picking it back up. Balancing the two views is the path wherein genius lies and unfortunately, I haven’t attained that status yet!

What about you? Do you like to know the set up from the beginning or are you content to be adrift for a while? Would love to hear your opinion. giving away an Amazon gift card this month!

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shanda on April 21, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    I like a challenge, to figure it out myself. Art imitating life. You usually don’t drop too much backstory (or shouldn’t) as you pointed out. I completely understand your point. Ever read books where you cringe at the way backstory is delivered? Yeah, someone published it. Shudder.

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  2. Hmmm … good question! I’d say there are some things I’m okay with being confused about, and some things I definitely want to have a firm grasp on. For example, I’m okay with the plot and characters being a bit mysterious — it’s so fun to find out more as the story progresses. But I definitely want to know the basics of the world the character inhabits. If it’s a fantasy world, I need to be able to picture it. What’s going on with the magic system? What sort of fantastical beasts prowl the forests? If it’s a science fiction world, what sort of aliens are we dealing with? Is there faster than light travel? Etc. I guess what I’m really saying is that I need, by the end of the first few chapters, to be able to picture and understand where the story is taking place. Once I get the setting (and a bit of the society), I can enjoy seeing the character arcs and plot unfold.

    For example, the novel Neuromancer drove me absolutely crazy. It’s deliberately written as if we, the audience, live in a cyberpunk future, so nothing’s really explained. This makes for a fascinating read, but also a very frustrating one, because I never had any idea what was going on, and that made it very discouraging for me to keep reading.

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  3. I would rather be a little confused at the beginning. I’ve found that I tend to lose interest easier if the author reveals too much too soon. I love being dropped right into a story & figuring it out as I go along. That makes the book more interesting to me.

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  4. Posted by susanmsj on April 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I don’t like knowing too much at the first. I need to know who the characters are, but the deeper stuff can be revealed as the story goes on.

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  5. Posted by Valri Western on April 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    If you know too much at the beginning, it takes the “wind out of your sails” and what is the point of continuing to read? The interesting “stuff” needs to come in doses so the reader will keep wanting to read! I know as humans we WANT to have all the good stuff at once but if it is all revealed, the book is “over” for us so it really needs to be revealed a little at a time to keep us turning the pages!

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  6. Posted by Linda Presley on April 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I like to know just enough about the characters and set up to keep me interested and then let it build as the story line builds. And btw I like to read your books! Keep them coming! Have a blessed day!

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