Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Back Story

Boy did I screw this up.

In fiction writing, the back story can be an author's friend or worst enemy.  For me, it drove me crazy.  In my first manuscript, I had no idea what I was doing, thus the back story scenes I wrote were awful,  cumbersome and boring.  They were what editors call 'Information dumps' and they are also a no-no.

I fell into the trap of many a rookie writer by leaving important information out of the story and then deciding to provide that info via a few segments of back story.  In other words, I took the reader on a jaunt back it time to fill in some missing gaps.  All it really did was cause confusion and in some cases, the information given in the back story wasn't even needed. 

Of all the errors I made in the first manuscript, this was the hardest to fix and as of this blog date I am still re-writing the beginning trying to fix the timeline in my story so the back story can be made clear without there actually being a back story.  In my case, quite a bit of information needed to get to the reader that had happened in the past and I'll be damned if there was an easy way to do it.  Who knows...I may have to leave it the way it is.

But enough of my problems.  Sometimes taking the reader back in time is a necessity and can often be very entertaining if done correctly.  Numerous writers use it and use it well, though most editors will probably tell you to avoid it at all costs, or if necessary, spread the back story throughout the book, giving tidbits of history here and there so as not to bore the reader to death as you leave the current storyline.

If you decide to use back story, take a hard look at what you are trying to accomplish with it and see if there might be a better way around it.  Keep it short and to the point and return to the main story line as soon as possible so as not to lose the reader.   Just remember, the story is the story and everything else is cake.  Or is it pie?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Everything else is filling.

Filling can be good or filling can over stuff. Overstuffed readers, pardon the pun, get fed up and close the book without finishing--the author's worst nightmare.

Every reader is different just like every car owner is different. Just like all the varieties of cars, thus the huge array of genres.

Where was I going with this, I forgot...oh yeah.

Some readers like back story. Some like it a lot some want small portions. Some readers like tons of historical background, others not so much.

The author's job is to put forth his/her best effort. Something he thinks his reader will enjoy. If the the author can tell a good story but the writing is bad...there's hope. Writing improves with practice. If the author can't tell a story....ooops.

Rich says he screwed up his first story because of all the back story. He did what I did and so many other have done before him and will do after him---the dreaded information dump. Let's get all that character history out there at one time so I can get on with my story.

Rich's issue can be easily fixed. He tells a great story--I read it. His issues are minor. I'll bet his next work avoids the same pitfalls.

I can't wait to see.

The Anonymous Blog Responder

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.