Thursday, May 6, 2010

TMI or NEI?

One of the problems I've been struggling with as I write and revise Jane's Air is either sharing Too Much Info (TMI) or Not Enough Info (NEI) (Okay, I just made NEI up. Maybe if I start using in in texts it will catch on).

For example, my antagonist, Isaac Strickland, has a very dark past. I know it's important for the reader to know about it, so they understand his motives, but at the same time I'd rather not include all of it.

Then there's the whole background info and physical characteristics thing... I try to avoid info dump, but at the same time it gets hard to fit everything in.

How do you guys find middle ground between TMI and NEI?

8 comments:

Jonathon Arntson said...

I haven't found the middle ground yet. With my two narrators, 1stperson, I have a hard time balancing them. One of my MC's has a text book length of history, they other has very little background info. I am not sure what has prevented me from balancing the two out, it just happened. I can't wait to see other's responses.

inthewritemind said...

It's difficult. I know I have the same problem.

I've been told that you don't necessarily have to give all the background info for your characters--just the important parts that help move the story along. Also with physical characteristics, I've been guilty of using the "mirror trick"--meaning my character looks at themselves in the mirror and then I describe, from their POV what they look like. I've since realized that's not the best way to describe.

I've also been told that knowing exactly what the character looks like isn't of incredibly high importance. Many readers form their own visual of the character. However, if you have to describe them (like I do with my MC as her appearance is an important part of the story) you have to try and weave it in in such a way that doesn't sound forced. That's where I'm still at--trying to learn how to do that :P

JEM said...

I know what you mean! I've worked hard to trust my reader; hinting at something, when done right, is just as good (if not better) than saying it outright. Think of all the books you've read that you get annoyed because the author is beating you over the head with something. I try to avoid that in my writing. Some readers may not get it, but most will.

C. Michael Fontes said...

I would say start with a minimalist approach. Then, if your critters or beta readers start to ask questions, you know you need to add more.

Cynthia Reese said...

Backstory = bites. You have to do it in tiny little bites. My rule of thumb is to put in as little as I can get away to begin with. If my CPs or editor wants more, they'll ask for it -- and only the places they see a need for it.

Mariah Irvin said...

Great comments, everyone. I've been leaning towards the minimalist approach... we'll see how it works!

Erica Chapman said...

That's a great question... Um. When you find out the answer can you please share? LOL

I guess I just ask myself, as a reader, what do I need to know about these people to make the story compelling? Then, that's what I write. Or try to.

Great post! Good luck with finding that middle ;o)

Carrie Harris said...

Critique partners. That's how I do it. You think *I* have some clue what I'm doing? Of course not. :)