What are the guidelines on using questions in dialog (between ignorant characters) to expose setting and backstory?
A few exchanges between my characters seem to fall flat. I'm trying to sort out why. I've used a few chunks of dialog in my story to bring in important details. (I used dialog ... because I knew to avoid info dumps.)
One beta reader said something along these lines, too, about some of the dialog seeming to be misused for the sole purpose of exposition.
As I stare at it, I think it's specifically the questions within the dialog. I think those are at odds with the characters. I think the characters, as I've built them, would not be so inquisitive.
I'm wondering what the guidelines are for using questions (and answers) in dialog as a means to expose information.
If this is too broad let me know and I can try to focus in.
Example: Imagine a character on the run, leaving his home in Big City. He takes a new identity and goes to Small Town. He claims to be from Different Big City.
People in Small Town are suspicious. They drill in, asking him questions about his past. He tries to keep his story straight, he tries to ask them questions too, because he doesn't know why they would care in the first place. They have their reasons.
^ using this set up, secrets and suspicions on both sides, I introduce world-building information over a couple chapters (about Big City, Different Big City, and Small Town). I thought it worked in the early drafts, but now I'm editing for flow again (after revisions to heighten tension throughout) and these chunks feel flat. The below gives you sense of the basic structure of this sort of dialog chunk ... which in my actual story would be embellished with details and setting to sound less horrible and more natural.
Small Towner said, "Why do you say you're from Different Big City?"
Guy on the run responded, "We agreed to drop that. Why should it matter?"
Small Towner said, "It matters because (world building detail.)"
If I cut it, i lose the world building detail, which the reader needs. I think maybe Guy on the run wouldn't open himself to the conversation. He wouldn't ask 'why should it matter.' Not sure. And probably the last bit is too on the nose, but not sure where to go with that problem.
Second edit: Using a combination of suggestions here, it is improving, flowing more naturally, and characterization is deepening. Thank yous all around.