Thursday, August 18, 2011

Filling In the Blanks

These carved blocks came from the temple to the goddess Sulis Minerva on the site of the Roman baths in Bath. The individual pieces offer one glimpse into what worship at the temple would have been like.

Even though there are chunks missing, scholars have managed to piece together this recreation:

It's pretty incredible, isn't it? They only had a third, maybe half the pieces, and yet from that they could take an educated guess at the whole design.

And here's where I tie this into writing. Back story is like this. As writers, we need to know all the pieces, everything about who our characters are and why they do the things they do. We need to know they were stung by a bee in fifth grade and have been terrified ever since.

The audience doesn't need to know that. Give them a third, maybe half of what you know and they'll be able to piece together the rest. That moment as a reader when we realize how things fit together is magic, and if you offer us too many pieces, it's lost.