Monday, August 9, 2010

After a long weekend that included this:

Here I am back behind my desk waiting to wow you with all things related to backstory.

Hey, stop yawning!

Last week we explored the reasons why backstory doesn't work when used in paragraphs or, gasp, entire pages. 1) It slows the story pacing before the story ever gets off the ground and 2) It ain't natural-like.

Okay, so we didn't really explore the second one, but we are today. One of the reasons backstory is frowned upon within the first three chapters is it does not follow the normal learning curve of a relationship.

When you meet someone new, what do you know about them? Right. Nothing. Wouldn't it be odd for this stranger to sit down and begin telling your their entire life story? Most of us would beat it out of there real quick.

In the natural curve of relationships, only after a period of time do you start to pick up on little comments the person makes that hint at a rough upbringing, or a nasty divorce, or whatever. The point is, it takes you a while to realize your new acquaintance has rough edges and/or problems. This is one of the reasons why dropping hints about your character in those first chapters is much more natural than dumping paragraphs of backstory, it reflects how we interrelate with people.

Write your story in this manner. As if the person reading is seeing your character for the first time. Then, through a series of narrative, events, and interactions with other characters, begin revealing your character's problems and the conflicts they will have to face to reach their goal.

Oh, and before I forget, last weeks winner is. . .Amber S. I had to work hard to overlook her tendency toward weird baaaa-rnyard humor, but I persevered and have to admit that I was moo-ved by her in depth answer to my questi-oink. Great Job, girlfriend!

For those of you who didn't win anything but really want another chance. . .try and guess where the sunset picture was taken. If you're happen to nail it, I'll give you Lisa's car. No wait. Just kidding there. What I meant was, I'll give you. . .well. . .directions how to get there? Yeah, that's it!


  1. First of all, this post really hit home. I'm still being stubborn in my mind as to my on-the-fence position towards backstory, but the way you described what was wrong with it in this post made a lot of sense to me. Relationships really can't be rushed, and I think it's intriguing to consider the reader as having a relationship with the characters--because it's true! If a book is written well, the reader really cares about the characters. Lots to think about...

    Second, WOOHOO!!! I won one of your books?! Yay! Sorry I annoyed you with all the barnyard humor (well, maybe not that sorry...)! Anyway, I don't know how I'll ever decide which of your books I want to read...cozy mystery and historical romance both sound really good! Do you have a recommendation? I might have to go with Promise of Tomorrow...

    Do you want me to e-mail you? Or do you want to e-mail me?

    And I have no idea where that picture was taken, but I'll guess just for fun: Florida? (I'm really not very good at guessing...)

    Thanks so much for everything!!!



  2. Now, Amber. Ewe didn't annoy me with baa-rnyard humor. Not at all. I just have to make these things up as I go along.

    Moo-ving on. . .

    I'm glad the backstory posts are making sense to you. Hurrah! It's such a critical thing for all writers to understand. I struggled with "why can't I do this" in my first few drafts until another author took me aside and explained. It finally sunk in. (I hope!)

    As for the sunset, you guys are too far south. That's all I'm saying.


  3. Almost forgot that you asked for a recommendation. Depends. If you like a fun whodunit-type read, LaTisha's your woman. If you want drama and romance, then let Jack and Alaina perch on your shoulder as you read Promise of Tomorrow.

    The cover pic of Promise of Tomorrow is an actual picture of damage done to Johnstown, PA in the floor, which is the setting for this book.

  4. FLOOD! in the flood, not the floor.


  5. Sandra...are you giving away my car? I have the perfect one for you. It's behind my barn, covered with branches and leaves from both Hurricane Rita and Ike! LOL! so it doesn't run, and the convertible top has caved in and rotted, and so it's probably infested with every kind of poisonous snake in Texas because we live near the that too much backstory?? :-)

  6. Sandra (I finally know your first name because of the Heartsong Presents blog!),

    Maybe Alaska? Wherever it is, it's beautiful! :)

    Glad I didn't REALLY annoy you, because I would feel really baa-d if I had done so. I might even moo-ve me to tears... Not really! ;)

    Thank you again for the information, and as far as books go, I think I'd like to read Promise of Tomorrow. :D


    P.S. Elizabeth--yes, that is WAY too much backstory! ;) I hope I never have to be anywhere near that car!

  7. *It* might even moo-ve me to tears, not *I* might even moo-ve me to tears! Yeesh!

    Sandra, whatever typo problem you're having, it must be catching!



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