1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Interrupting opening scene for backstory in shortstory

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, Aug 25, 2012.

    Is it a good idea to interrupt the opening scene in a short story
    by bringing the reader up to date with back story?

    I open with a hook sentence. But then update the reader
    with how the man got himself into that
    position in the first place - sort of like writing backwards.

    Eventually, I come back to the opening scene, and the backstory
    is written as a story in itself, not a mindless
    info dump.
    What's your opinion?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not guaranteed to fail, but it's risky. When this happens, I generally find myself treating the flashback as if it's backstory and waiting for it to be over with so that I can get to the real story, which is not a good way for your readers to feel.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, that's what I'm worried about!
     
  4. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Would it be possible to eke the backstory out throughout the story, so the intrigue as to how the man got himself in the situation is maintained for longer?
     
  5. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    Hi Peach. I am experiencing the same kind of issue with a novel I've been working on. I begin the first sentence with action and then dive into the back story for about 3-4 paragraphs. I am not sure if I should change it or not. I want to give a little of the back story in the beginning because the beginning opens with my character experiencing a kind of panic attack because of what happened in the past. I am unsure what to do as well.
     
  6. The Hollow
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    The Hollow Member

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    Yes, I'd glaze over back-story also, especially if it was long. I'd be eager to pick up where the author left off in the middle of the current action.

    Instead of inserting that information right after your hook (unless it's interesting, in which case it could be a good thing), lay it throughout the action you've already set in motion more like bread crumbs throughout, rather than as one big block of bread right after your hook. For example, have the character think, "Why did I..." or "This is what I get for..." (and compress whatever he did to get himself in that situation into one sentence). After that scene, when the character has a moment to breathe, you can have him show the reader memories or flashbacks of the moments leading up to that point. But not for too long, because you'll have to keep the plot moving still.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Crystal, How about a prologue? I've never tried one myself. And it wouldn't work for me - mine's just a short story. But they can be
    handy for giving history prior to action depending on your genre. They work great in romance and fantasy, but
    I'm not crazy about them in horror.

    This problem happened twice with me. I notice it happens when the story starts after some change or event - for me it was an mc crash
    landing on a foriegn planet, and an mc facing the end of the world - I start with the jump - three months or two months after the fact
    but then I feel, I need to back pedal to show how he got there, and who he was before the event, to contrast with how he's reacting
    to things now. I'm having a real hard time finding a balance and not harping too long on back story info.

    This is what I'm hoping the unless it's interesting thing. I try to keep the backstory in balance
    with the rest of the action and not just an info dump. Maybe I should just post the piece and ask if
    it works or doesn't.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write story, not back story.
     
  9. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    I actually wrote a prologue for the novel, but decided to not use it. I've been doing some rewrites, and I have cut out much of the back story, but it does still eat up 3 paragraphs. I am going to do some more rewrites and maybe disperse the back story throughout the action in the first few chapters.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Nope don't ever stop your beginning for back story. As I've said many times, if you're looking to get published, you have the first three to four paragraphs to catch an agent's attention. Use your time wisely, and keep the back story for later.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can only ditto all the 'no, it's not a good idea' and 'don't do it!' comments...
     
  12. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    I agree with some of the other responses. It's risky, especially in a short format. You're trying to lay down the foundation for your plot, etc and a look back so soon might throw the reader off course too early.

    Good luck though. Please share if you decide to incorporate the backstory
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Thanks for the advice guys!
    I'm going to attempt to rework the story in a more linear fashion which, actually, might work out
    better, anyway. Toning some saggy spots that have developed.
     

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