Revealing a character's past without it sounding forced?

I’m currently writing/posting a werewolf romance/NA story, so far I’ve posted 11 chapters and the response has been relatively good considering it is in such a popular genre. My trouble is that at the moment, I’m re-writing some pretty key scenes regarding the MC’s history (not posted these yet, obviously) and I’m struggling with it sounding forced and clumsy. The ‘reveal’ is around 30,000 words deep and I know if I continue to drag it out further, it would interfere with the main plot and/or discourage the reader from reading any further.

I’ve been lucky enough to get a fellow wattpadder to proofread for me, which is great and I’m sure it will ultimately help. I just can’t seem to shift this feeling that it reads very linear and I don’t know if it’s just my insecurity as a writer or if I’m onto something that needs rectified.

1 Like

The best advice I can give is to have you keep writing the story. Anything can be edited later.

2 Likes

I would prefer to write a lot of information than barely any at all you know?

Yeah that’s kinda my feeling too, although I do have a tendency to ramble at times.

1 Like

Have them meet a random secondary character and explain things. It allows for a realistic reveal of some details.

1 Like

I see, listen to some podcasts and get a take on how people in a conversation speak. Short and sweet with just enough information to keep the listener (in this case reader) on edge.

1 Like

I would say drip feed it into other parts of the narrative so it’s not so (pardon the term) clunky. I like it when events spark off brief memory flashes (like real life does); let the reader piece things together. I’m not a lover of great chunks of exposition and feel that it’s quite patronising. Flashback’s can be useful but equally are easily abused.
Are you sure that all the reveal is vitally important? (you’d be surprised how little information you can actually get by on… and sometimes it’s handy to hold some stuff in reserve).

3 Likes

That’s a really good point actually, thank you! I’ve used flashbacks in other stories but not this particular one so that’s definitely something I’m going to consider. I think the issue is that I dont really like huge ‘reveals’ where all the information is just sort of unleashed in one go - much like what you said.

It might be worth going through the chapter is question again and doing a bit of a re-jig to see if it is, in fact, all relevant. Thank you, really appreciate that!

No probs - i tend to think back on my favourite books and films / comics and see how they managed their flashbacks / reveals.

I know this is will be completely alien to your genre but it will help show how a great writer managed to impart lots of knowledge over the course of a novel -read “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” which is one of the greatest spy thrillers ever written. It’s a tour de force. Most of it is written through people’s recollections and flashbacks but none of it feels forced. There’s so much information imparted (and even more in the sequel Smiley’s People) but it’s done in bite sized chunks.

One question to bear in mind constantly is: Does it drive the narrative forward? Is this information pertinent to the rest of the story?

1 Like

Tinker tailor is a fantastic book, great example I had t thought of actually!
I do try to keep in mind whether or not I’m rambling or actually driving the plot forward but sometimes I just get into such a rhythm it’s hard to keep track. That’s certainly something I need to work on, though.

1 Like

Wow - I’m impressed… It’s so difficult to get a feel of people here with just an avatar, etc that i never know who I’m talking to lol (can’t get used to it.)

Another book that you might like to read to give you ideas for flawless technique is The French Lieutenants Woman by John Fowles (who’s my fave author btw)

I know right? I’m just the same. Unfortunately think I’m one of the golden oldies on here :joy:

That’s one I haven’t read, so I’ll definitely check it out :slight_smile:

Go on the, ‘Golden Oldie’; I’ll tell you if you tell me lol :wink:

Revealing the details through flashbacks is something I don’t recommend. I feel that sprinkling in the details through encounters, but also through maybe an object or place that reminds them of something or someone is a good way to go and develop a character. For example, a vase that reminds a character of their mother.

Sometimes even having them think back on some bad decision or a painful part of their past after a strenuous conflict is good to link those negative feelings together with a memory.

Those are just some ways to do it. Hope that helps a little!

2 Likes

I think it depends on how it’s done; and I meant it the same way that you mentioned… which is, in itself a flashback. It doesn’t have to be a grand chance for exposition…

I’m not sure I fully understand what the issue. What do you mean by forced or dragging?

Sorry, I’ll see if I can rephrase! Basically, I wanted some advice on ways I can reveal my main character’s history without it being a sudden/out of character information bomb.

I’ve dropped small hints here and there throughout the earlier chapters, but I’m struggling when it comes to the MC finally explaining to a secondary character what happened to make her leave her career behind and move away.

My character has worked so hard to keep her past a secret (she’s ashamed) and I dont want the readers to feel like it’s a huge change in personality for her to just blurt out her whole life story.

When she does tell a secondary character what happened, I want it to seem like a conversation that comes naturally. I’m trying to avoid it appearing to the reader as a purely plot-driven exchange.

I hope this makes sense, I’ve currently got two small children doing their very best to distract me!

Why does she need to reveal her entire life story?

There are very few situations I ever find myself in, personally, where I need to explain to another person who I am or what made me. Even with my significant other, it would be several conversations over the course of years to cover much of my life or even some of the major events. Typically I would just tell the bits or pieces most relevant to the moment currently happening or to what I’m trying to reveal.

And if I’m a very shy person who has gone out of their way not to tell someone about a secret or part of me, even when I do, it would likely be a very modified version of the story, omitting a lot of parts, skipping bits. And if the other party heard me skip or brush a detail and asked a little more into it, I would deflect or ask to pass (“Oh it was nothing”).

So for me I’d be curious what this sort of situation is where a character feels they need to expose all of their details to another person because that’s extremely rare in regular life for most people.

2 Likes

I do flashbacks when needed.

It is a slightly unique situation at that point in the story but yeah, I think you’re right in that a real person wouldnt just open up to someone else and tell them their life story.

There have been instances in the story where shes told as little as she can possibly get away with, without it seeming suspicious. I’m going to have another wee look at the chapter in question tonight and see if perhaps the reason it doesn’t feel like a natural exchange is because it isn’t a natural exchange.

It seems so obvious but maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling with it for so long. Thanks!