1. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    Backstory

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by StormWarrior, Aug 7, 2008.

    I have decided to write my story through the eyes of the MC. I want the story to begin from the point when she moved home. However, her life previous to this must be explained so that her motivations can be understood. What do you think would be the best way to do this?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stretch it out throughout the course of the story. A comment here, a stray thought there. Always leave the reader with more questions than answers, except when you start wrapping the story up near the end. Even then, some unanswered questions are a good thing.

    For example, the day after she moves home, her mother says something like:

    "By the way, Greg somebody called. He sounded anxious, left a number for you to call him back."

    She hands your MC a sheet from a memo pad. The moment her mom isn't looking, she slips the note into the trash.

    This leaves the reader wondering who Greg is, and if he was part of the reason your MC came home. It suggests an answer, but doesn't spoon feed it to the reader. More than one interpretation is possible, too. Maybe your MC doesn't want to talk with anyone where she was, not just Greg. Is he upset at her, or worried about her, or even looking for what she knows about something that happened to another person we know nothing about?
     
  3. StormWarrior
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    I was thinking about that, but I hate to read books that have flashback thoughts like that. All of my favourite books get everything out in the open right away. Hmm I can't think of any better idea though. I don't want to scribble a quick prequel at the beginning.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    My preference is to write strong present-day scenes while introducing small bits of back story, as needed, throughout the book. If you do a Google search on "too much back story" you'll find lots of advice, most of it warning about this problem. One article I read about excessive back story said that editors and literary agents often joke about the manuscripts of new writers . . . saying that you can usually throw out the first three chapters and then you have a good novel.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Info dumps are awful. And notice that what I did was not a flashback.
     
  6. TwinPanther13
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    I like the way cogito did that and like he said its not a flash back it just lets you know somthing is going on.

    I know for me it helps to have a back story written. That way you can pick and choose the hints that you give people and they will be more structured because you have written in stone what happened before.

    I will sometimes write a one page short story or overview of a character and events he or she participated in before the story starts. That way I can look back and pull from there dealing with personality or have a reason why Tom hates Mary.

    The reader may not know or ever find out conclusively. But if it is written i can hint about it.
     
  7. StormWarrior
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    Hmm, I'm still not sure how to go about it. The main thing is that my character is mixed race. She does not look it though. Her father was northern and her mother was southern. Her mother died and she and her father moved north. In the north they are very racist and hate southerners. I want to start from when she moves north. She is racist too, she doesn't want southerners in the northern land, even though she is half-southern. She tries to hide her southern identity from the other northerners. I need the reader to understand that she is half-southern, despite her desire to force all southerners from the northern land she now occupies.
     
  8. TwinPanther13
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    Have her mother be a southerner known by those from the north. You can make it where those in the north see a picture of her mother or have stories of her mother and when they denounce her let the reader know that she is halfhearted when speaking bad about her mother without telling them thats her mother.

    In the end have her protect her mother at some point.
     
  9. StormWarrior
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    Also, another problem. When the MC moves north, I need her to meet and become close friends with the Prince of the land and the Prince's friends & family. But I can't think why some random girl would get to know them so closely. I don't think her getting a job at the palace is realistic for reasons to lengthy to go into. I guess maybe they just bumped into each other out in the woods or something. I guess I'll have to think about it. Suggestions welcome!
     
  10. TwinPanther13
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    The group laughed at the picture of the southern woman and Marie joined in. As they left she turned and hesitated for a moment, tears in her eyes. She turned and left without a word.

    For give for any errors but it hints at the fact that there is some history with her and a southern woman. Keep dropping hints throughout the story. people will pick it up.
     
  11. StormWarrior
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    They live in a world where pictures don't exist and distances between kingdoms are too great for them to have heard of any particular person. So them having heard of her mother won't work. I want to leave her mother out of it anyway, she wants to forget her southern heritage.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    Well the prince and her can share an interest. Art and music are Princely things to enjoy i guess.

    If you want to make it something that they become fast friends from make it a realistic pastime that is taboo for royalty. Maybe athletics, or gambling, Maybe the Prince likes glassblowing or carpentry, or blacksmithing.

    Something that would be considered beneath him that he enjoys and she likes as well. Hell a female glass blower could be fround upon so a woman and a prince doing that would make them bond
     
  13. StormWarrior
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    Nothing is frowned upon in this land except southerners and hot weather, but they do both share a passion for walking in the forest. I suppose they can meet that way.
     
  14. TwinPanther13
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    Well if you consider what I wrote, let her do work or art in the southern style and be praised for it even while she knows that if they new it was a southern style she would be harrased and made fun of
     
  15. TwinPanther13
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    A mutual interest in nature is good as well, what ever it is you like
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    <using TwinPanther's Marie for the MC>

    Marie saw a small group ahead, laughing at something on the ground. As she approached, she saw a girl on the ground, muddy and with a torn skirt. One of the boys emptied a mug in his hand over her.

    "A little something to clean up with," he said. The others laughed, and one large boy with wild black hair thumped him on the back with approval.

    Marie looked at the girl. She was unmistakeably a Southie. Enraged, she spat in the girl's hair. "Scum! You make the street filthy."

    The girl looked at her new tormentor, with a growing look of disbelief.

    Marie felt panic rising in her. She knows! How could she? "What are you looking at, scum?" she screeched.

    ----

    Someone keeping a secret like that will often react twice as strongly as everyone else, to prove to themselves as well as others that she is the complete opposite of that which she denies in herself.

    As for meeting the prince, perhaps she finds something of value that the prince lost, or shows some compassion toward someone the prince cares about. Some reason for him to seek her out to thank her, or reward her.

    Alternately, have her do something that displeases him. Assuming it's nothing so major that he would have her in irons, a mutual dislike could mean they are continually arguing whenever they meet, and he could begin to admire her honesty and spunk.
     

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