When writing a book, it is easy to fall into the trap of providing the reader the quick answer to who is the hero, who is the villain, what are the backstories and the setting. After all, you’ve been told over and over again that it isn’t a good idea to hide pertinent details from the reader.
The quick answer, though, can lead to an information dump that is anything but fast and leaves the reader wondering if there is a plot and when might that plot begin. Considering the average attention span of most adults is about eight seconds, the odds of the reader slogging through that dump for the hidden treasure—the plot—is right up there with you winning the lottery on the first try.
Instead, writing a good book is an intricately woven tapestry where the plot, the setting and the backstory are spread throughout the story on an as needed bases. It gives the reader the tools he needs to make his own decisions and the space to join in the fantasy.
For example, if Dr. Jorge kills Franco in the library with a candlestick, you don’t need to know on page one that Franco is Dr. Jorge’s estranged son, but you probably do need to know that somewhere around the time the detective is looking for a motive for the murder. And while you might want to quickly mention the library is in a Spanish castle, you can probably hold off telling the reader that the castle was designed with a series of hidden doors leading to a demonic rituals chamber until Dr. Jorge tries to raise Franco from the dead in said chamber. For the record, Jorge wants to resurrect his son to kill him again for making love to Selma, Jorge’s twenty-two year old second wife. The first murder was for not changing the empty toilet paper roll before leaving the bathroom.