Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Cryptic Background Reference

Go To

Basic Trope: Some part of the world gets name-dropped without giving details or context, simply to make the world feel more detailed.

  • Straight: The Illustrated History Of Diesel Wars is a story happening in a Constructed World. Many setting details are name-dropped throughout, but left unexplained.
  • Exaggerated: The entire world of the story is cryptic to the point of unintelligibility, and any information the readers get is on a need-to-know basis.
  • Advertisement:
  • Downplayed: Most, but not all Cryptic Background References end up as Chekhov's Guns sooner or later.
  • Justified: The details in question are myths and rumors widely known in-universe, so the characters don't bother explaining them to eachother.
  • Inverted: Any mentions of some background detail, no matter how insignificant, prompt an Info Dump from one of the characters.
  • Subverted: A Cryptic Background Reference to "the Ghost Train" is dropped, but the main character never heard of it, and asks for an explanation.
  • Double Subverted: The explanation he gets is a long-winded story name-dropping ten locations and seven historical figures that the readers don't know about.
  • Parodied: The main characters work for a highly secretive totalitarian state, and so any attempts to find out what Cryptic Background References mean are met with "I'm sorry, citizen, but this information is not available at your security clearance."
  • Advertisement:
  • Zig Zagged: ???
  • Averted: If a background reference is made, it always eventually ends up as a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Enforced: "I'm telling you, Jeremy, don't just make a story - make a world! Put some unexplained background details in there, that'll get the readers' imagination running!"
  • Lampshaded: "So... what's all this talk about the Ghost Train and Firebase Alpha?" "I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You."
  • Invoked: The Lancer is an in-universe history buff, and loves to namedrop the events from the past to compare them with current events.
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied: One of the characters is a Fish out of Water and another is Mr. Exposition, so no background reference gets left unexplained.
  • Discussed: "Do you feel that all this rumor-mongering could use some explanation for the less shrewd of us?" "Nah, everyone knows what we're talking about anyway."
  • Advertisement:
  • Conversed: "Wow, this Diesel Wars book really pulls no punches in namedropping world details like i already know about them." "Isn't that just the writer's Signature Style? I read his short story collection, and those were just as full of unexplained details."
  • Played For Laughs: The Cryptic Background References quickly degenerate into references to Comic Sutra.
  • Played For Drama: The Cryptic Background References get used to add a sense of danger and excitement to the story, with a multitude of threats just waiting to leap out towards the heroes.

Now go back to Cryptic Background Reference, but don't take any shortcuts - Alister Cromwell found out the hard way that you shouldn't.


Example of: