Practically Painless Backgrounds
The original colonists of Caspicia had not exactly been Earth-normal types. They were nut cases and dreamers and visionaries, each of them convinced that they had paranormal powers that set them apart from the rest of humanity.
Some of them had been right.
But after twenty generations of interbreeding had distributed those powers among the population, many had forgotten their origins. Merelinde’s family were among them. They prided themselves on an exclusive line of descent from the most important colonists and considered themselves superior to the other families.
“The opening is boring – all background, no story,” Frank told me.
“But that’s all stuff the reader needs to know!”
“Mary, your background as a history teacher is showing. Look, this is fiction; you can’t tell readers that they have to read up on the history of your imaginary world because it’ll be on their final exam.”
“I can’t?” And here I’d thought fiction would be easier than writing real history. Maybe I’d been wrong about that.
“Nope. You need to put it into a scene.”
“As you know, Fabian, it has been five hundred years since our ancestors landed on this world.”
“Yes, Merelinde, and the paranormal powers that some brought with them have been distributed through our whole population by now.”
Frank shook his head. “You have to do more than turn limping exposition into flat dialogue, Mary. Fabian and Merelinde both know the history of their own world; why would they stand around telling each other things they already know?”
“You are so picky! Maybe Merelinde doesn’t already know the whole history.”
“How come? Lousy education?”
“Fabian, I can’t marry you. I have to preserve my special powers by marrying someone with a similar heritage.”
“Merelinde, your ego is running away with you. You aren’t any more ‘special’ than the rest of us!”
“Oh, yes I am. I’m a direct descendant of the Landing Lady Merel and I’ve inherited her powers!”
Fabian sighed. “Merelinde, it’s been five hundred years since the original forty colonists landed on this world. We are all descended from all of them, okay? Their paranormal powers have been quite thoroughly distributed through the population.”
“I don’t believe you. Nobody ever told me that. And nobody but me can make fire, so there!”
Fabian snapped his fingers over the wine cup in front of him. A ruby flame rose from the surface of the liquid. “It seems there is a lot that you weren’t told.”