Do I really need to know that?
The other night I was getting some counseling from my wonderful cross country crit partner via Google Talk. I was running over all the plot holes that I thought were letting the entire meaning leak out of my story. I explained how I needed to include all of this character motivation and back story in order to make it work. Finally, my partner said, “I don’t need to know that.”
“As the reader, I don’t need to know that.” She had already guessed at one historic detail just by way of character interaction and the rest of it she thought was just pouring it on a little too thick.
After I thought about it for a moment, I realized that she was right (good crit partners, it seems, are always right). I was being too heavy handed with what I was trying to say. I was insulting my reader. I confused what I needed to know for what the reader needed to know.
You see, I needed to understand all of that backstory to make it work for me, to help make the story come alive, to breathe life into my character’s. And that’s the thing that caught me, I don’t need to explain, I simply need to know. If I understand who the character is and where they are coming from, that sense of reality will work its way into the story without me having to force it.
Now that I understand that, let’s see if I can make it work.