1. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Back Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by KillianRussell, Apr 30, 2011.

    Who, what, where, when, why, how.....teach me all you know about weaving some gnarly back story in to my time-traveled John Wilkes Booth/Vampire epic
     
  2. The Soul Man
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    The Soul Man Member

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    You are going to want some more specifics, but I will give a slight tidbit of advice. Backstory should be among the first aspect of character creation. The character's personality and history should shape the character just as much as their position in the story's plot.

    You want to make sure you aren't being too cliche but at the same time making something developed and engaging for the reader
     
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  3. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I like to spend a lot of time daydreaming about, imagining, and taking notes on the life stories and major events for all my main characters (and mid level characters), even though I know a lot of it will never make it into the actual story.

    As far as inserting the actual back story. I've got it slipped in throughout, further developing the full picture as the plot moves along.

    Don't know if that helps at all... :)
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I generally start not knowing the backstory. What influences the character can't help but come out as I write, and each situation will call on him/her to remember something from their past as use for getting out of the situation. The more I write the more developed they become. Once I have the skeleton of their backstory and a finished first draft I flesh out what I have, check for errors, then re-write dropping bigger hints. Since the backstory wasn't laboriously inserted the first time there's plenty of room for dropping hints without it looking clunky, and merely to serve as back up for the facts when they come to light.

    So in my first draft of my current project the demonically possessed history teacher turned out to have a fairy girlfriend who was quite important later, so I wrote her into an opening chapter as a noticeable background character, so later she was around in the right place so the reader can say, "Aha! Yes! She was lurking around the school minutes before he became possessed!" and her connection to the school is rather more solid than it was before, since in the first draft she showed up once in the town centre and then was banished to the fairy world and vanished for 40,000 words. :p The backstory then has some logical context in the story rather than looking like what it is, which is me randomly sewing elements of the story together giggling maniacally, saying, "What would be fun to do next...?"
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you are right, the important thing is weaving it in a little at a time and not weighing down with heavy backstory thinking the reader needs to know everything before the actual story can start. The best way, I think is to insert it in a way that the reader doesn't even notice that he is being informed but consider it a part of what is actually happening.

    That is a nice approach even for the writer, finding out as you go along. To some extent I do that too, I know the basic background of my characters but develope the details as I write because that is when im thinking the best and the best ideas comes to my mind.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Remember that you are writing a story. The back story elements should only be inserted when and where they are relevant to the story.

    You, as a writer, may have a broader history in mind. But keep it to yourself, and only leak what the story demands.

    "But readers want the back story," you may argue. Absolutely true, but to give a reader everything he or she wants is a mistake. Always leave them wanting more.
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I personally am not thrilled when I am reading and the author takes me on a 3000 word 'back in the day ride.' I have disagreed with the concept the reader needs to know everything.

    The beguiling thing in reading the crtiqiues here is the general trend to encourage a character recap with every scene so people can "get it"
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    What does that mean? in practise? That sounds odd to me. is it good or bad?
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Bad.

    It's like stories that start out:

    Bob couldn't know at the time, but the following events led to his believing the thing he believes at the end of these events.

    and then the scene ends:

    And that's how Bob, due to the events that just occurred that I'm going to mention again in case you forgot them, came to believe the thing just moments ago he came to believe but which I'll tell you again just to be sure you understand the thing that just happened.

    The ironic thing is the more a writer interjects into the story trying to make sure a reader gets the message and point, the less sense the story makes, the less clear the story is, and the less likely the reader is to accept the message the writer is trying to convince the reader.

    Actions speak louder than words, even in fiction, so instead of giving a history of a character, they should act and react in accordance with the lived history they carry with them. And instead of informing the reader of the things that just happened, or what they mean, the writer should trust the reader is reading because they're actually literate and will be able to get it all through context of action.

    Meaning, don't say 'Bob was a mean guy, no really, just watch I'll show you' as the reader is then primed with a 'prove it!' mentality and will try to reject what you've just stated (human nature). Now, if you just give actions, and Bob is kicking puppies and cussing out old ladies, the reader will come to the conclusion Bob is a mean guy, and thus not only was this 'information' delivered more elegantly, but in a way that's more believable to the reader as it was their own conclusion instead of just having to take the writer or narrators word for it.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most readers like to form their own opinions about characters, and backstory is part of that.

    But just like in real life, you meet someone, you begin to form opinions, and then as you get to know the individual through conversation or spending time with them, you come to know them better. As you hang out with people they know, you get to know the person better--both through current actions and what they've done in the past.

    Consider that when including the backstory. What is necessary for the reader to know to move the story forward. You'll know far more about the character than will ever grace the pages of your novel. But that also allows you to be consistent.

    Just like with character description, allowing the reader to form the image in their mind's eye has merit by filling in some of the blanks, allowing the reader to learn and form opinions and get to know the character(s) as it goes, allowing them to fill in some of the blanks can be very effective.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you popsicledeath that was an excellent explaination. :)
    The more I come to this forum the more I start to realize that there is more knowledge and more to learn from you guys than I have ever found in any book about writing. :)
     

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