Sometime in the past year I had a eureka moment in reading. It was the moment I recognized the genius of what I'm going to call Implied History. Often it's quite obvious why a book is so remarkable. But then, just as often, I don't have the words to describe what makes a book so exquisite. I know it is exquisite, I know I can't stop reading, and most importantly I can't stop thinking about the characters. Often it's an excellent premise that sucks me in but when I am drawn back to the same book time and again it's almost always because of the characters. A good plot will only hold up so many times but a character to love becomes a lifelong romance.
This eureka moment was recognizing a great tool in developing characters. It's a tool I can now identify immediately when reading and one I am trying to incorporate into my own writing. This tool is Implied History. Rather than getting a laundry list of characteristics the Reader is introduced to a character through the character's interactions with her peers and surroundings. And it's the character's peer group that can be such a window into her personality.
Learning about a character through the responses of her peers can be a rich and illuminating experience. I enjoy it much more than a random thought tangent by the character or simple narrative. As with all the tools of writing the technique must be applied judiciously and with an eye to craft but oh the joy when it is done well.
I am now exploring this idea of Implied History in my writing. It's harder than it sounds but very rewarding when I feel I've got it right.