Ok, like many of you I've got a fistful of complex characters I want to make sure my audience knows at least as well as their own relatives (I'll settle for 'distant relative'). I have their backstories all figured in my head, their appearance so detailed I could sketch a photograph (if I had a gram of artistic talent), and their personalities are so real they're all but making me schizophrenic.
So how the hell do I get my readers to see them the way I do without info-dumping??
I'm always in awe when a book or movie manages to tell me everything I need to know in a few lines, be it speech or text. My favorite example is Raiders of the Lost Ark
, with Indy and Marian.
You learn everything
about them in four lines of dialogue and one action. specifically, Indy and Marian. Example...
Marian punches Indy
: "I've learned to hate you in the last ten years."
Indy: "I never meant to hurt you."
Marian: "I was a child! I was in love!"
Indy: "You knew what you were doin'."
And now we know exactly
what happened between them, no messy boring emo-B.S. We also learn that Marian is not a girl to be messed with; she doesn't slap Indy, she punches
him. And from the way he rubs his jaw after, it kinda hurt.
Why does this work so well? And how does a writer cop this technique for himself? I get so tired of badly developed characters in novels...but I also
get tired of draggy info-dumps (let's face it, we all skim those anyhow).
What's a writer to do? I leave it to the cynical experts of TV Tropes
to try and come up with an answer (or at least an opinion).