Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Backstory - Again

Last night, I worked on backstory for a WiP that's somewhat in progress, but not totally. Huge, large, infinite chunks of backstory that I'm going to throw into something called a Prologue!!


Since this next project, partially started, slumbering for now, is urban fantasy, well, there's a bit of backstory necessary. I mean, I have magical objects after all, a race of protectors, among other things . . . and these things aren't self-explanatory.

Backstory is necessary.

But, as I've mentioned before, I'm more likely to intersperse bits and pieces of backstory throughout the first few chapters rather than have a Prologue or weigh down the first chapter.

Such will be the case with this urban fantasy WiP. There will be a bit here, a piece there, but just not everywhere!

Oh, and there'll be some great flashbacks, perhaps whole chapters. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding about the flashback chapter thingy. It's, well, necessary.

Yeah, I know, flashbacks and backstory go hand-in-hand as definite things not to do in excess when writing. Oh, well, such is life. I'm a rebel like that at times.

So, last night, I wrote a few pages of backstory about one aspect of this urban fantasy I'm somewhat working on right now, but will work on more in-depth later. The backstory will then be broken into pieces to fit throughout the first few chapters, or even stretched so far throughout the first half, maybe entire, manuscript.

The interesting thing about this project, at least for me, is the basic premise for the project. Nope, not telling you that, though Lady Glamis knows. The inspiration created a retelling of sorts that morphed into something else. This was one of the projects I posted about earlier in the year when I had three projects coming at me from all sides and couldn't decide which one to work on. Well, one project took precedent and I wrote it from start to finish while the other two projects slumbered fitfully in the recesses of my mind.

Well, this one project is beginning to stir, more and more each day, and I know that soon it will awaken fully and I'll have to write the story, from beginning to end. Woo-hoo!



Jody Hedlund said...

Yes, I do break the rules!! My current WIP starts with dialogue. I think you have the right assessment in yesterday's post--we're not out to write cookie-cutter style books. We need to write what works best for our personalities and with our writing voice. However, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I think we need to have a grasp on fiction-writing basics. Once we know the "rules" then we can break them selectively.

Backstory is a dangerous thing. As I've been judging entries for a national fiction writing contest, I've noticed too much backstory in most entries. I think it does a disservice to readers because I personally like the challenge of figuring out what's going on, without having everything handed to me on a silver platter.

Great thoughts, Scott. And I appreciated your comment yesterday. I take the same approach when I read craft books--I glean ideas, but I certainly don't use everything. Overall, however, there are some top fiction-writing books that have challenged me to grow, and that's what really counts.

Claire Dawn said...

My first chapter is all backstory/flashback. But it's also all action. It's a better beginning than the original first chapter that had no backstory.

I mean, if your story was about a war the government was fighting using guerilla warfare, wouldn't an attack on a family of noncombattant citizens, be as gooda place to start as any?

Guess I'm a rebel too. Who cares? Rule are boring!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

It sounds like you have some great ideas stirring, Scott. Backstory is a tricky beast! :-)

Scott said...

Jody – I agree that all writers need a grasp of the basics and the rules. The rules are guidelines and not a set path, because if everybody wrote the same way . . . well, boring! I think backstory, if handled properly, can enhance the writing, as can flashbacks. It’s all in how a writer handles the input of backstory into their brilliance.

Claire Dawn – I think the main thing about backstory is not to bog down your readers so much so that they don’t want to continue reading. I really think a story can start wherever, or however for that matter, a writer wants to start the story.

Shannon – yes, the ideas are stirring . . . and it’s about time. Ha! I think backstory is probably the trickiest beast of all and must be handled with extreme caution.

Elana Johnson said...

I advocate rule-breaking at any time, for any reason. You backstory that novel! :)

Lady Glamis said...

Go ahead and break those rules if they work for the story. Trust yourself, and if you get enough feedback on it that the backstory doesn't work, well, deal with it at that point. Good luck! And I'm very excited about this project of yours. :)

Scott said...

Elana – I know, you love to break the rules. You inspire me to do the same. Ha! Part of my philosophy on backstory: we all have a past. At some point, our friends learn of our past. So, why not learn of a character’s past as well through a) backstory, b) flashbacks or c) a combination of both??

Lady Glamis – I’m no longer considering them ‘rules’ but rather guidelines to help me with my writing, but not necessarily meant to adhere to in a determined fashion. Ha! I’ve worked out more, well, backstory on the project, and realized that some of the backstory won’t even appear until almost the end of the novel. Woo-hoo!

Tess said...

You're writing an urban fantasy? COOL! That is such a hot genre right now. I love reading it myself.

And, rules are meant to be broken. You just have to do it right, right?

Scott said...

Tess - it didn't start out as urban fantasy, but somehow morphed into that! Go figure. And, you're right, we have to break the rules in the proper way. Hey, is that another rule? : )