I am currently writing a fictional book. I have no idea how to introduce the new country and the history. I already have three ideas on how to start the book, but I don't know which one to use and which is better. If you have a better idea on how to go about this, please share it with me.

1: [Explaining the history first]

2: [Jumping straight into it and explain the history as we go later in the book]

3: [Explain a bit of the history and explain the rest later]

Again, I am open to other ideas.

  • 1
    Without knowing more about the book you're writing, any answers to this will be pure speculation. Can you go into more detail about the book? Jan 4, 2014 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Of course, this is not a question for us so much as it is a question for you, the author. Superb books of all three varieties, and more, exist. There is no wrong answer. This is about your story. So, with that in mind, if you don't immediately see which is better for you, I would recommend sitting down and listing out the pros and cons.

To get you started:

  1. Explaining the history first could affect your readers' attention, expectations, and the pace of the narrative. If you aren't particularly good at writing history, the readers who came to your book for its narrative may find themselves initially put-off. So you have to write it well. But you are probably at greater risk of the first section of the book feeling tangibly different from the rest -- and for good reason. This is easier made a weakness, but could also become a strength.

  2. This makes for a quicker pace for most writers. You may get readers involved more quickly, but there is a greater risk of readers missing the metanarrative that the history would introduce -- and that can be a death-blow for some stories. Also, as an author, you may find yourself at the mercy of these bits of history -- you may not be able to allow your characters or settings to display the full richness of their cultural or contextual milieu. This has the potential to cripple what would otherwise be a very colorful character, for example.

  3. This is a middle-of-the-road situation which allows the author to adopt both the typical strengths and weaknesses of the other two approaches, but in milder forms.

All three are useful. But only you know your story and your style. Think about what your story needs to be and how readers are best to discover this -- and then compare that with your own strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths, of course, but don't be afraid to push your own limitations a little.

  • For myself, I don't like when a story jumps right into the action too quickly. This is precisely what happened with Lloyd Alexander's "The Book of Three". A lot of people liked getting right to the action. But to me, it destroyed the suspension of disbelief. It brought the author's attempt to try to entertain me straight to the forefront. Fiction, for me, isn't about a mere sequence of events. This is where I differ from user 'what'. I want the history; I want the culture and daily life. I want to see the world and the metanarrative; I don't just want to run through it. Jan 4, 2014 at 14:18

As always, I'd like to start out with mentioning that readers are different and that this is only my personal taste:

I am bored to death by historical or any other explanatory introduction. I don't like prologues. I want to get into the story from the first sentence onwards. I even skip long passages of history and other explanations, dreams, reflective monologue etc. later in the text, if they don't propell the story forward. I only read what happens.

If you want to entertain me, you'll have to make everything, that you want me to know, known through the events of the story.

For example, if there is a university in that town, don't just state it, let the characters visit the university or let one of them be a student or teacher. If they don't visit the university, and if none of them works there, I don't need to know about it. The same goes for history: I don't need to know the history of a country to understand the suffering caused by a civil war. The question is: What is your story about? If it is about the suffering of civil war, skip the history. I'll relate your story to real life history and understand the background of your story.

It's like you don't describe the advertisements on the outside of the bus your characters take. I simply put it there in my mind.

Your readers are not stupid, so don't bore them with what they know.

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