Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everyone has one. A life, that is. It might not be a great life, but it's yours. Or maybe your life has been nearly perfect. Congrats and please consider adopting me. Most of us would say that we have experienced ups and downs throughout our lives. We have learned better who we are and what we are capable of, and, especially if you have procreated, your eyes have been opened to your weakest weaknesses. Children have a way of doing that, and it's both a gift and absolutely, positively, discouraging. Whichever end of the spectrum you claim, your experiences have made you who you are.

Backstory does the same thing for characters. It takes them from one-dimensional, to multi-faceted, well rounded, I-wanna-meet-this-person heroes and heroines.

Backstory is the backbone of your story. Without a backbone, what would the human body do? If you don't know the answer to that, research it out. You will be amazed at what we would look like without a backbone. And please remember that the same concept applies to your writing. More specifically, your characters.

We end our segment on Backstory with a Q&A. You ask the questions and I'll answer them. If no one asks a question then I'll pout.


  1. This has been fun learning more about backstory with you! :)

    Hmmm...as for a question...would you say that having some backstory at the beginning of the story would create more sympathy for and interest in the character, or is it better to surprise the reader later by having them learn all of the backstory as the story goes along? Can there be a balance between the two?

    Hope that makes sense! I guess I mostly just want to know if it's OK in some cases to reveal parts of a backstory near the beginning of a story, not just later on. And is it OK to have a different opinion on this than you? ;)


  2. Amber, you'll love my answer. . .

    It depends on the story and the genre. Every genre is approached a bit differently when taking into account the "writing rules." I think most editors/agents will tell you that story rules. If you have a good story they don't care if your characters exchange witty dialogue while standing on their heads, they'll buy your book. . . STORY trumps all else.

    But I will caution you in this way. Newbies, myself included once upon a time, often try to wiggle out from having to learn the rules because they don't believe it necessary for *their* story. I will state this most emphatically, learn the rules of writing. Learn how to write within the rules and do it well. THEN, break them as your story dictates.

    What this does is help build in you the ability to write a story--and I mean an entire book, not just a few chapters--that has all the elements and does them all well. POV, show vs tell, backstory, action vs reaction, passive voice. . . blah, blah.

    Second, (hm, was there a first?) the VERY best thing a young writer can do is find a tough critique group and allow themselves to learn through the comments and wisdom of writers further along the path how to tweak and strengthen their story.

    Last of all, go to writing conferences near you and soak up the subjects being taught like a sponge. You can also join a writing-focused organization. ACFW is one I highly recommend. I learned from just being on the email loop (but that was back in the day when they were ACRW and membership was below 100!). There are plenty of critique groups within the organization, as well as a forum and chapters of ACFW within all regions of the US, though some are more active than others. Conferences and writer organizations also offer opportunities to network and build relationships that will be beneficial to you down the road.

    It's never too soon to start learning.

  3. Wow! Thank you for all the advice! :D It was so nice of you to take the time to share all of your tips with me. "Ewe" are awesome!


  4. Hey, gal, you're welcome. When you're ready, send me what you're working on and I'll give it a looksie.

  5. Really? You would do that for me? :) Do you want me to wait until after I finish the entire manuscript before I have you look at it?


  6. Sure I would. I can do both, really. Shoot me what you have so far and I'll look at things again when you're done with the manuscript. I find it much easier and more beneficial to have an entire ms in front of me to crit. My crit partners will vouch for that if you'd like references. Having everything makes it easier to judge pacing, GMC and such, but like I said, you can send me what you have and we'll go from there.

  7. Well, actually, maybe I should finish it first. It probably would be better to read the whole thing at once, and then I would feel a bit more confident, if you know what I mean. ;)

    Remind me to have you look at it when it's ready! Until then, I think I just need to get writing!

    Thank you again for being willing to look at it! You're so sweet. :)


  8. She is sweet...and that's exactly why we love her!

    Sandra, thanks for being such a great example of writers helping writers.


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