Every now and then in this blog, I touch on an issue concerning the writing of crime fiction, and I’ve been interested to see how many comments some of these posts have prompted. One example was when I asked about the gruesomeness of some modern crime fiction. And another came last Monday, with my post ‘Too Much Information?’
These are topics that intrigue me, though I don’t think there are simple answers to the questions I have posed, and I’m glad that you seem to have found them interesting too. Many readers, it seems, are fascinated by the craft of writing, and give it a lot of thought.
A number of comments on ‘Too Much Information?’ made the point that the key issue is that of balance, and I agree. If background information slows down the development of the story, that’s a drawback. But background information conveyed subtly can add a layer of interest to the book, and can also, sometimes, reflect some of the key themes.
If I were to choose an example from my own work, it might be The Serpent Pool. There’s quite a bit of stuff in there about Thomas De Quincey, which (I like to think) is interesting in its own right. But it’s also intended to cast some light on the plot, both in relation to the role that Daniel Kind plays in unravelling the central mystery, and in conveying ideas about motivation to murder.
Books that have a historical setting tend, by definition, to include a good deal of information about past times. Ellis Peters’ books about Brother Cadfael provide a classic example. And when I wrote Dancing for the Hangman, I tried to integrate historical background with the depiction of Crippen as a credible, if by no means wholly likeable, character. The pace of modern life is one of the reasons why a novel set today can seldom afford to become bogged down with an excess of background detail. But provided that detail is relevant and interesting, it can certainly add to reader enjoyment.