Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The importance of backstory

Now that Living Canvas is finished and waiting for a publisher, I've been referring back to my notes for a new story. Time to start a new project!

Jumping in (it's tentatively titled "Even in the Quietest Moments"), I've been having a good time getting to know my characters and the plot devices I want to include. I penned the first chapter, and started rewriting right away. It hasn't gelled yet, and that's when the characters grabbed me by the collar and told me they need me to know the backstory first. Backstory is important, and in this case, it can be critical to plot development.

Backstory is what happened to your characters before they came onto the page. Their history. In this story, I have to go back at least a hundred years. There is family information that is plot critical, so I need to take some more time and look over the family history before I can move them forward.

Backstory is a tricky thing to fit in. If you disclose too much all at once, you run the risk of "info dumping." It has to be woven in slowly, unobtrusively, or your readers will lose track of the story being told. But in some cases, the back story is instrumental to what's happening on the page. And so, before I can start on chapter 2, I have to get my characters to tell me about the ancestors. Then I can decide how to weave that information into the story - whether it will require flashback chapters or a method of handing down information to future generations.

Still one more deadline to meet at the day job (although the worst is over), and then it's full speed ahead on the new story. If you read my post on "Writing as Therapy," let me tell you how good it feels to have time to daydream again! Writing is definitely stress relief for me!

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