1. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth

    Does my back-story make sense? Semi long post

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by EllBeEss, Aug 29, 2013.

    Ok so in the story I'm currently working on it is essential for the plot that everyone wants to kill one another however in the back-story there are a few events that I'm not completely sure make sense. Also I want to make sure that I haven't unconsciously made it too similar to anything else. I am not asking for people to write my back-story for me I am merely asking for opinions on how plausible it seems.


    A revolution broke out a long time before the opening of the novel. Originally it was one for power, members of the lower classes (Group A) decided to try to overthrow the corrupt and cruel king. The king and those loyal to him (Group K) wanted to keep control. They were generally those who either saw what Group A was prepared to do to gain power or wondered about what kind of ruler they would be left with-what the king lacked in amiability he made up for in predictability. Those who wanted control either wanted power for themselves or to be free from tyranny. A third group (Group O) came from outside seeing the unstable state of affairs to try to gain power.

    The fight went on for longer and longer and the king's rule steadily became shakier, he and his allies turned to more desperate measures. As his reign became shakier Group A struggled harder for power but they became divided. The main group split into many smaller ones due to disagreements on who would rule after the war and on other semi trivial issues. Group O moved further in but became divided and smaller (many gave up and went home) as time went on. However soon Group O, even divided, was by far the biggest threat.

    Group A decided to join forces with Group K by the only means they could see, murder the new king and his family and to blame it on Group O. They also chose to kidnap the King's eldest daughter (I'm unsure about how much sense this part makes.) to provide a rallying point for Group K so that they would still have something to fight for. The plan was to put the girl on the throne after they won which would allow someone to gain instant power by marrying her.

    Meanwhile Group O became less divided. The members were no longer predominately the newcomers but others who went for neither of the other sides joined them. The lines became very blurry after awhile between Group O and Group A although they really hated one another.

    At the beginning of the novel the king's family has not yet been assassinated, this happens a few chapters in. Every town or village is controlled by a specific group which is generally the side the children of that town end up fighting on.

    Another thing is that different sub groups will all fight everyone else, the only unified group is Group K with Group O being larger and more unified and Group A being the largest and most divided.


    A couple of other points I'm interested would be on the long term affect of this war i would like to know if people would think them logical;
    -Few adult males (the society is heavily patriarchal but is becoming less so), which leads to a lessened number of children
    -Bad economy
    -Houses, villages even military bases are largely unused (my logic behind the last one is that they have largely been forgotten/are in such ill-repair that they are almost unusable by even a small army)


    Thank-you to anyone who is able to offer feedback.
     
  2. Trish
    Offline

    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,986
    Likes Received:
    224
    Location:
    New York
    This isn't my usual kind of story, so I can't speak to whether it's too similar to anything else or not. I will say, however, that it doesn't really matter if it is. No one else is in your head or imagination, so it's going to be different either way.

    It all makes sense to me. I have minor concerns about the reader being able to maintain separation between Group A and Group O, but only because you keep saying how much the lines are blurred. They can be blurred, just make sure the lines still exist, if you know what I mean.

    Long term affects make sense, and are logical. The lesser numbers of children and few adult males will make sense in the towns about 8-10 months in, unless rape is prevalent. As far as few males at all, well that's going to take quite a while longer unless you want the war to end faster. Those would be seriously heavy losses, and the war, for them, probably wouldn't last much longer. Of course, losses that heavy are a perfect reason for Group A to join Group K and assassinate the king, and kidnap the daughter. The only real flag to me, is that you said this happens a couple chapters in. So I have to wonder how much time you're giving the reader to understand the losses, the characters, etc. but I'm sure you have reasons for that, and that you'll make it work.

    Overall I don't see anything really wrong with what you've described, it all makes sense to me. Whether or not it still will in context of a story, I don't know, but I'm guessing yes since you've done such a solid job explaining it all here.
     
  3. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Thank-you for your opinion. Just pointing out that the back-story isn't going to be introduced to the reader until later, it's all happening early on in the novel but other than common knowledge, there is a war going on and everyone is divided, the main characters do not know who everyone is until later on when it matters to the story. I was thinking of having the war going on for a long time, I can't see the losses being too substantial but a few deaths here and there add up eventually.

    I'm glad it makes sense to someone else, my ideas can get quite convoluted.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Write story, not back story. Keep your focus.
     
  5. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    I understand that it seems a lot like procrastination but since my story is so connected to the back-story not knowing whether what I already had established, through writing the actual story, made sense was wasting more writing time than writing the back-story out briefly did. I wasn't letting the details hold me up but I did need to get them cleared up in my mind before I got to a point where they would hold me up.
     
  6. Flying Geese
    Offline

    Flying Geese Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    66
    That's a lot of backstory. You may have to actually write those events so that they can be clearly seen in the mind of the reader. You may actually have a lot of fun with seeing if you can actually write the whole event out. But if it must be backstory then I would just say make sure everything is a bit more clear. And make the names for the groups distinct, if they have names. I kind of got tangled up in the events. Everyone wants power, sure. What I don't really see is a motive...which also isnt necessary but it would be nice to see a group with some clearly defined desired outcomes.
     
  7. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Yeah they don't actually have names at the moment, I generally just pick something random and mull it over until I find something suitable rather than wasting time forcing a name.

    That was one of my issues with it. I will try and make everyone's motives more distinct. Part of my problem with the back-story is that I couldn't see what else but power sparked the rebellion probably because in the present of my novel the main motives of everyone (or the people who are in control of everyone at least) is power. I suppose it isn't so much back-story as behind story now that I think of it. Some of the events are still going on and driving the story forward.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  8. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    If the society was heavily patriarcical there would be more adult males, not less.
    But if you wanted an impetus for the events I think a plague would do nicely here. It could wipe out X% of adult males. Without workers the economy suffers, (Leading to famine, if this is an agrarian society as there aren't enough workers to harvest). The sudden drop in population has left houses and military bases empty and unused except by a skeleton crew.
     
  9. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    The few adult males was more due to the long war than it being a patriarchal society. I could have phrased myself better there, the comment about the society was to highlight the impact more than as a reason. Although in an equal society the number of women in the war would be greater, killing some of them making the gender imbalance less prevalent.

    A plague would work but some kind of war background is the basis for my novel. Thank you for your input.
     
  10. ddavidv
    Offline

    ddavidv Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    353
    Likes Received:
    239
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    You didn't mention it, but my first reaction to the "Group this or that" aspect was: characters. Will there be distinguishable, unique leaders/villians/heroes to help attach a personality distinction to the different groups? I realize it is back story and these characters may not play into the present day you are writing, but it may help the reader keep the groups and their motives clear. Also gives you an excuse to invent some new people.
     
  11. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    I do have the characters in the back-story or those who play a major part or are still around anyway. Since my concern was more on the overall believability of the back-story than on the characters I chose not to over-complicate it.

    As for the Groups, those are just stand in names until I come up with something I like and can spell consistently.
     
  12. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Here're some thoughts that may help you to figure out whether your backstory makes sense or not.

    First, I'm confused which group is which, so to spare my brain, I've nicknamed the groups as follows:
    Group A: Aardvark
    Group K: Klutz
    Group O: Oligarch

    Second, how well acquainted are you with military histories? It'll help you immensely if you research the era your story takes place (if it's medieval, you research medieval military history) and try to join the dots: so this is why the Crusaders waged war in the East! So this is why the Vikings raided the Volga!

    Now to your story:

    What do Oligarch want? What kind of a regime?

    Kidnapping the daughter makes little sense to me. If the monarchy is overthrown, sparing the bloodlines of the previous rulers don't matter that much, except all of them are often wanted dead or exiled. Think of what Napoleon Bonaparte did.

    Why do Oligarchs and Aardvarks hate each other so much? Is it a religious indifference (think of Catholics vs. Protestants)?

    Have the Klutzes been in power the whole time? What do they have to offer to Aardvarks to keep them as allies? (think of Capitalism vs. Communism, even if two Capitalist countries had a long history of war, like France and Britain, they can unite in the Cold War against the USSR, or how about Nazi Germany, who united even Commies and Capitalists, being the greatest evil)

    You also have to decide how your parties wage war. That affects the condition of villages. If it's scorched earth policy, it's likely many villages and bases are left unusable.

    Bad economy. Now, war is a funny thing. It's lucrative for entrepreneurs, so don't forget that. On the other hand, war can destroy a country's economy (think back to Germany, again, during the World Wars, albeit the inflation wasn't due to a civil war).

    The "shortage" of adult males can make sense. Wasn't this the case in the UK after WWI? But it was and still is a patriarchal society.

    Just a few thoughts, maybe I can come up with more later.
     
    EllBeEss likes this.
  13. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks for your detailed reply.

    The novel is fantasy so I'm making most of it up, doing a bit of research where something is uncertain. Since I'm pretty familiar with the medieval era that's the time period I'm basing a lot of the technology on.

    I'm shakiest on Oligarch's desires, the only idea is that they are part of the army of another country who
    a) is led by a person wanting power for his/herself (or more specifically an idiot who thinks he's in control, being manipulated by several others)
    b)are trying to take over in the name of their monarch on his orders (perhaps led by a son or general hoping to be put in charge afterwards)

    Aardvarks' dislike of everyone else again I see it more as being a conflict of ideology, all three see what the others are doing, destroying villages, murdering innocent people etc and create conflict because of it when in reality they are all as bad as one another. They dislike Klutz because they rebelled to overthrow the king (maybe to implement a faux democracy, again with their leader in power) and monarchy who the Klutz support. The dislike between the Aardvarks and Oligarchs is again due to the conflict in ideology; Aardvarks generally want (at least the foot soldiers etc) some say in how things are run.

    The alliance is necessary, the Aardvarks and Klutzes are both of similar size and strength, if it were just the two of them, one would in sooner or later, the Aardvarks believe they would have the upper hand in such a conflict, thus deeming it necessary to eliminate the stronger adversary first (Oligarchs are newer to the conflict and less divided) which the Aardvarks also see as doable with the ally.

    As for the princess the simplest thing would be to kill her but as she is one of the key characters that is not an option. The only way I could justify it is to say that if the Klutzes lose their purpose for fighting, they will pick a side (possibly the Oligarchs) or give in leading the Aardvarks to be unable to eliminate the Oligarchs.

    Thankyou again for your detailed opinion it has really gotten me thinking :)
     
  14. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Some readers won't notice it, some will, but personally I really dislike sacrificing logic to keep someone alive just because they're the main character. Perhaps she's believed to be killed? Of course, they don't have to go all French Revolution on the monarchy. She might be just exiled. Your society might even be of the opinion that she has to be spared so that someone from Aardvarks can marry her. If you think of it, a character in a position of power may think of it too and deem it a good solution.

    You'll feel more confident if you take things from real life, esp. if you aim for realism. Fantasy can also be fantasy -- no rules! It all depends on what you want to do. It's easy in my own case, I always strive for realism, so I know what I want to do when I write novels centered on war (T.Trian and I have one such work in process).

    What do they want? Natural resources? Gold? Magic stones? The Fountain of Youth? Clearly the Klutzes (and Aardvarks) have something their leader wants.


    What I deciphered is that Aardvarks want democracy. Maybe a parlamentary state? A republic? Look at the pros and cons of different ways to run a country. Perhaps there's some megalomaniac amidst the Oligarchs or Klutzes who wants to establish a personality cult of his/her own?

    Note that in the medieval times there was widespread illiteracy especially in Europe. Note how education has changed the power-relations over time. Note how rulers exploited the plagues, the witch hunts, how they used superstition and religion as means to control the people, etc. These real-life stories are bound to give you ideas. I'd start with finding motivations for the key players. When you know what they want, it's easier to find causality and logic in the big picture, to me anyway. And I don't say you should copy everything out of history books, but everything's been done already, so you gotta do it differently, that's all.

    Also, you can't create conflict for the sake of conflict if you want to create an illusion of "there's no puppet master" (puppet master = you). That's why I'd start with the motivation of the key characters, decide what they want, play by their terms, their wishes and desires. Well, that is, if the story is character-driven. I could be way off with this, though, but this is kind of like how I approach stuff.

    I also understand why you want to know the backstory well before writing, and I don't think it's procrastination. A lot of this has to do with world-building, and it's part of the writing process. Also, a lot of it won't make it directly to the final manuscript, but the important thing is that you know how things went, right? :)
     
  15. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Not really, the Great War had a 10% fatality rate. The influenza epidemic in Europe actually killed more people.
     
  16. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Yeah, I was probably thinking about the concept of 'the lost generation' when writing the post, which is another thing though closely related. It's true the Spanish flu killed a lot of young people, men and women though.
     
  17. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    I imagine you could find an easy way to make the plague affect predominately the male population. Say, off the top of my head, the disease is a parasite found only where men work and isn't communicable between humans.

    But it's war! So never mind.
     
  18. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Thank-you KaTrian, you've really got me thinking now.

    This was the main idea I was going for, if an Aardvark came to power by marrying the only survivor of the king's bloodline, it would be the best way to ensure the continued support of the Klutzes.

    I'm trying to make it logical and character driven but since I'm writing the novel as I work on the back-story (the political side doesn't come into it for awhile) the key players in the back-story are only coming to me slowly, I know all the current leaders like the back of my hand but the previous leaders (in my head the war has been going on for like 30 years) who have died are harder to get a measure of because they don't really exist properly in my head yet, I'll work on there development.

    Another problem is that the groups aren't unified and therefore there are a few power players, the current main leader of the Aardvarks however wants to tell people he is creating a democracy whereas he intends to marry the princess and establish his control as a monarch/dictator after he eliminates the Oligarchs.

    I'll have to think more clearly about the Oligarchs, they're the group painted as the enemy in the novel (one of the MCs' father was apparently murdered by them) which means while I can afford to be hazy about the details I need to have a firm grasp on what they want.

    There is an item that is key to my story line (no idea what form it will take, it's a locket for now) that will give the holder whatever he/she wants, the Oligarchs have been after it since the beginning, (can't believe I left this out) and the other groups begin searching for it after the find out about its existence since they all believe its powers will end the war and put them on top. I also haven't decided if the powers are real or just something of legend.
     
  19. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Jack Asher I'm not opposed to making my characters even more miserable, a plague would really affect the population and make everyone miserable which can't be a bad thing :)
     
  20. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,963
    Likes Received:
    5,487
    That's a long, complicated, and rather confusing backstory. Do you need all that complexity? What's the necessary end product? If it's a society with a lot of recent deaths, you could probably get that in a simpler way. If it's a reason for the princess to be important and be kidnapped, there are probably simpler way to get that, too.
     
  21. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    In order to make the setting of my novel what it is yeah I need the complexity. The plot would not work without the complexity of the back-story as part of the plot focuses on the confusion of the young protagonists around the events in the back-story and this confusion is a major player in driving the story forwards. The plot requires the recent deaths and for the war to still be going on.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  22. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    It seems to me you've got the thinking process going pretty well at this point. Since there's no way we can absorb your backstory the same way you can, it is, unfortunately, on your shoulders to make it work and to make it make sense. It doesn't matter if it appears complex. Look at the Syrian conflict, for instance (there's actually a thread in the Lounge). There are several players in it, several opposing forces and semi-united groups who have the same "big goal", e.g. change the regime, but these groups can't fully agree with each other because they have conflicting interests based on things like race and religion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  23. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    I think it was Tolkien who said, "Write story, not backstory, your character should derive their motivations only from the events the the reader can comprehend."

    I could be wrong. That sounds like something Tolkien would say doesn't it?

    (jk)
     
  24. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Not all of this will make it to the reader in fact I was planning on pretty much leaving it as this is what happened to MC's father, mother and best friend and that's all you need to know. Of course that is unless they want to be talked at to death. But I need to grasp the back-story so I know enough of what is happening to write convincingly.

    Jack Asher, as someone who struggled and I mean barely made it through Lord Of The Rings I was so confused, then I realized you were joking. :p
     
    Jack Asher likes this.

Share This Page