1. Kata_Misashi
    Offline

    Kata_Misashi Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    123
    Likes Received:
    50

    Starting off with mc's backstory... yay or nay? >.>

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kata_Misashi, Sep 9, 2015.

    So at first I thought it was a good idea cause it would give everyone some insight on the MC's at hand but now that I think of it, it seems that I pulling away from the main story at hand.
    I don't want to throw people in the readers face that they know nothing about but... gaah, thoughts?:superthink:
     
  2. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    If you need to do this, don't make it backstory; make it part of the story. What's generally inadvisable is starting at a specific point and then jumping back in time for several chapters. It's usually a cheap gimmick to get you hooked with the first chapter and it's frustrating for readers. A story should always be moving forwards.

    Generally, what works best is starting at a naturally interesting point and then filling in backstory slowly, as it's needed. A little mystery is good. Reveal enough, at the right time, to make sure your readers know what's going on and can understand your character's motivation, even if not fully.

    I keep saying 'generally' because there are exceptions to every rule. The Monk goes off on a backstory for several chapters and that's a bloody brilliant novel. Memoirs of a Geisha and Jane Eyre both start with the character's childhoods and end with them as adults. It didn't exactly harm their commercial success or their reputation.
     
    Adhulari, Renee J, jannert and 3 others like this.
  3. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,215
    Likes Received:
    4,225
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Exactly, make the backstory the story. There's a fantasy trilogy I'm reading now where everything therein had already happened, the narrator (ie, the protagonist) is recording them years later when she's presumably a middle-aged/elderly lady. Though even then I was frustrated because I couldn't understand why the narrator didn't just get with the main plot. Took me a while to figure out the intent of the author (the person who wrote the books, not the in-universe narrator.)
     
    Kata_Misashi likes this.
  4. Kata_Misashi
    Offline

    Kata_Misashi Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    123
    Likes Received:
    50
    That makes sense. It seems I might need to rethink how I'm going to do this ^^; But this did give me the insight I needed. Thanks guys!:)
     
  5. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    Definitely Nay.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I think you are answering your own question: "it seems that I['m] pulling away from the main story."

    It's rare that the reader would need to understand the character's motives right off the bat, especially if the scene you are writing is interesting.
     
    Kata_Misashi, KaTrian and Tesoro like this.
  7. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    If you feel it's necessary for your readers to understand the character's behaviour at the outset of the story, then by all means start with the character's childhood. Just make sure it's not an infodump. Make it a very gripping part of the story. Show us the incidents that matter in full colour.

    To suggest you shouldn't/can't do this is to ignore some pretty fantastic books that begin this way. It's actually a common way to start a story.

    There isn't any right/wrong rule about this issue. It all boils down to what you want your readers to be thinking about as they read. Do you want your readers to be wondering why a character behaves as he does—and solving that mystery is a big part of your story? Or do you want them to watch how his known background affects the story?

    Just to illustrate my point, imagine that the opening scene of your story shows your main character beating a starving dog to death. Your readers' reaction to this scene will be more sympathetic if they know, before they get to this scene, that his mother was killed and eaten by a ravenous pack of starving dogs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
    Adhulari likes this.
  8. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Based on how you describe it, I'd say "nay." It's usually not that necessary to know about character motivations beforehand. It's much more fun to find them out later, methinks. "Hang on, why's he acting this way? Oh, now I understand, it all makes sense now..."

    Matthew G. Lewis's The Monk? :eek:
     
  9. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    Yes. Why the shock? :superthink:
     
  10. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I'm shocked that someone else thinks it's bloody brilliant. :-D

    I wrote my MA thesis about it...
     
    Tenderiser likes this.

Share This Page