Before deciding to write stories, I was a voracious reader. Over thousands of books I learned from the successes and failings of the books I read. This has led to a sort of Bible in my head of do’s and don’ts. Tropes to avoid, for lack of better words.
This is one I consider egregious.
Lazy set up.
If one character speaks with stilted dialogue because their only purpose is to serve as data dump to explain the story to the reader, delete it. It feels of lazy writing or a lack of confidence in your ability to tell the story. A good story gives everything the reader needs in an economy of words organically.
Remember, a spider doesn’t spin a web that is fully formed. It requires weaving threads to form the whole. A sheer data dump takes the reader out of the story. It grinds things to halt. If backstory is needed, write it out. Keep it engaging. Always forward even when looking back. If it doesn’t make sense to you and you feel the need to explain yourself, go back and do it.
I see this a lot in both books and movies. The one personality devoid character. Usually embodied by a stereotype of sorts. The stoic soldier who has suffered a loss. The pop culture geek that knows everything. Then out of nowhere they bust into a soliloquy that explains what is happening, the stakes involved, the main character’s past heartache and so on and so forth. Just blocks of dialogue. There must be a hundred ways to do the same thing in a way that flows with the story.
Can it be done in a satisfying way? Sure. If the writer has good grip on dialogue, it can come out and seem naturally. But not everything or every conversation for that matter, will suffice. A scientist can break down the macguffin in terms the main character understands. That works. But do you see the point in that? You are not examining to the reader. No. You are explaining to the characters and imparting wisdom to the reader.
I think the main cause is the writer has something they believe to be important. Or maybe they are just in love with the plot. So they spill it out so the reader can recognize the brilliance of it. Snuffing the embers before they can ignite.
This, to me, is a cardinal sin in story telling. One every writer does at some point. In the rush to amaze, the key pacing is pushed.
My rule is that a story is done when it is done. If I have to slow it down to make sure the relevant points are made, I will. Even if I am dying to get to the next big set piece. Space to breathe. A roller coaster is more enjoyable because of the slow climb before the fast rush.
And that, dear readers, is proper set up.
hugs and sloppy wet kisses