Have you ever read a story that provides such a clear backstory that the characters become real? Or become so engaged and invest in a character’s life that it’s all you can do not to mourn when you finish the book?
They’re life changing, aren’t they? Those are the characters that stick with you, the ones that follow you from story to story, around your daily life, and in your dreams.
Every writer wants to write characters like that. Characters that stick.
But your amazing characters won’t stick around in the minds of your readers if you don’t keep your readers informed.
This can be a tricky thing. Every piece of the vast amount of information you know about your characters probably won’t make it into your story, but you still want to convey the right amount of knowledge so your readers can relate to your characters and your characters’ stories can be told in the best way.
Similarly, your characters will move about your world. If you were to write down every horseback ride, bus stop, walk, taxi cab, or dragon used for transportation, you’d probably not only be bored writing, but your readers will get bored reading.
Because let’s be real…no one really wants to know the entire process of your characters getting from point A to point B. Just get them there already.
Every writer has their own way of conveying this information. Today, I’m sharing the four ways I most use to convey important information and character movements in my stories.
I LOVE getting inside my characters’ heads. Journal entries are one of the most common exercises I use to get to know them better and sometimes they’ll make into my stories, especially if I’m doing several POV’s or if the main character is prone to self-reflection.
Journal entries allow you to give your readers a peek into your characters’ minds, and allow them to see events in new ways. They also allow you to provide background information in diverse ways, straight from your character’s mouth.
I love epistolary novels: stories told through letters. You gain so much more insight into characters, their concerns, their fears, and their hearts than you do in a traditional storytelling method.
And while writing an entire book of letters can be daunting, sprinkling letters throughout your story can have a similar impact as journal entries. Many people can convey their thoughts and emotions better on paper and you might find that your characters do too. Letters can help you convey your character’s thoughts and feelings while still keeping the story moving forward.
If you want to provide context for a character or give more details into an important event or decision, flashbacks are a great way to send your reader back in time to a pivotal moment that might not show up in your story’s chronological timeline.
Flashbacks can be tricky though… you don’t want to end up telling a story entirely composed of flashbacks. If you find yourself doing that, then you’re probably telling the wrong story. Focus on telling only the flashbacks important in moving the story forward. You can always release any others as deleted scenes.
This is especially helpful in stories with multiple POV’s or covering long journies. I mentioned moving your characters from point A to point B earlier? This is an easy way to do without boring your reader out of their mind. With date, time, and place markers, you can move your characters wherever they need to be (within in reason of course) with little effort on your part, and sufficient clarity for your readers.
Again, these are my favorite ways to convey information, but you can use a variety of other elements too. Here’s a list of a few more:
- Important relics or charms
- World stories and folklore
- Familial traditions
- Inside jokes
- Self-reflection of the POV character
If you’ve never tried one of these, give it a go this week! Slip one into your WIP to deepen your story and add to the knowledge you share with your reader.