1. dave_c
    Offline

    dave_c Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2010
    Messages:
    152
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    st helens, near liverpool

    where to begin my story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dave_c, Apr 19, 2011.

    I'v developed a back story for my hero, the problem is i now dont know where to start writing. The backstory has become quite rich and colourful and i think i could make a very good story in itself.

    How do you know where to draw the line for the beginning and end?

    Would i be better just writing from where i initially intended then purhaps write a prequal? Maybe use flash backs during the story itself to mix in the back story more?

    I dunno, any advice would be helpful. :)
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    I guess either of the two options. What it depends upon is how crucial the backstory is to the main story. If the plot cannot continue without knowing certain things, then have flashbacks. One of my novels, the characters were refusing to talk about something in their past (is in, the reader didn't know they weren't talking about it and for all the hints I gave (none :p) the events might not have happened. It was only on them being told this by the narration they'd understand why), and the only way to get it in was for me to include flashbacks. It was key information to the plot, as it affected all their decisions and radically changed the understanding of their relationship.

    On the other hand, the novel I just finished, I know tons of extra stuff about the characters' pasts, but none of it is plot-relevant. It's all character building stuff, development of a character who has already been dead 30 years when the story starts, and so on. I can hint that this stuff might have happened, but the reader has an understanding that it is not important, and it's clear it is only character development stuff. So I can say the main character was best friends with this dead character, that they did everything together, but aside from the one plot-relevant thing they did, there is no need to even elaborate another adventure they had that is relevant to the plot, because the results were much more important, not the how they happened, and I certainly wouldn't tell the random silly scenes of their friendship I know happened because there's no point. It's all just texture you can or can't weave in, nice to know about the character, but unless you were to write a second novel focussing specifically on the events in the past, there is no need to tell them.
     
  3. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    I think this is another aspect of not showing your research. You know the backstory, so you can understand the character well and make them well-rounded. There's no reason to give the reader the backstory, so no prequel and no flashbacks. They would get in the way of the story you are actually telling. If your novel is a success you can always revisit the backstory for your next novel.
     
  4. Yoshiko
    Offline

    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    27
    Does the reader really need to know the character's back story? As a reader I personally don't give a damn about a character's past unless it directly effects the present - seemingly random and unnecessary flashbacks make me roll my eyes.

    Why do you want to include it?
     
  5. dave_c
    Offline

    dave_c Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2010
    Messages:
    152
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    st helens, near liverpool
    I'm one of those people who plans things way too much, iv been working on my milieu and MC background for about 2 years

    I've developed an extreme back story which i have written as a story purely because this is how it flowed out onto the paper, the back story of my MC has now come to around fifty thousand words. I must admit the first ten thousand or so are pretty standard back story, but after that i just starts to feel more like it needs either its own novel or a part of this one. What i would probably do is cut it in half, still leaving a back story just a slightly lesser one.

    the comparison I'm drawing in my mind is if star wars had started at episode four. it would still be a damn good story, it would just be ..... less complete.

    I'm not sure if it is relevant but this is a fantasy novel i feel that that gives a little leeway compared to a romance novel.

    i appreciate the feedback.
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    However it has been argued Star Wars was much better when it started at story three :)

    Have you a scene in mind you would like to start with ? That always decides it for me - if there is an incident or interaction that introduces you to the character and tells the story as well - then I take it from there.
     
  7. KillianRussell
    Offline

    KillianRussell Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2011
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Glasshouse
    I just starting writing in my historical fiction novel I did not know Napleon was gay until I starting hashing out plot point in flash fiction form
     
  8. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I'd say start with:
    a. a change
    b. a decision
    c. a challenge
    d. a danger
    There's no point in starting with a normal every day life of the characters and go on writing about that for 50 pages before somethign actually happens. Start with the event that shapes the story and the people in it. What is the story going to be about?
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    *weeps*
     
  10. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    This sounds like good advice. The important thing being the writer knows the full history of his character, so that can come through no matter where the story starts in subtext and out of context.

    Instead of having a long passage of info-dump (which a flashback is just glorified info-dump often), in the context of the real-time story-line, the character IS his or her history, so acts in a way the reader understands, by reacting with thoughts and memories and feelings like the rest of us humans.

    Meaning, if you're an orphan you don't go into a 10 minute long informative trance on your orphan upbringing, you see someone with their kid and remember back to how you felt without parents, and how mean the nuns were, and trust the reader will get it, which, if relevant to the story line, will enhance it, not distract from the story you're trying to tell (as aptly pointed out above).

    Also, major bucks in prequels if your novel catches on, as people will have gotten hints and teasers of the full backstory and want more, eh. Even the Star Wars prequels made money (and just make sure the movie is as good as the books!)
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Start the story when everything is falling apart. Or at the least, when the sky is rumbling and the ground is quaking.

    Save your backstory for your author;s notes. Release a nugget here and there into the story where it is relevant, but keep the rest to yourself. Let the readers wonder!

    By starting the story as late as possible, you start with tension and maintain it.
     
  12. Quorum1
    Offline

    Quorum1 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    On my couch
    Start your story as close to the end as you can. Usually it's at the point where the problem that your character must solve is introduced. For example, Lord of the Rings didn't start with the birth of Frodo, it started when Frodo got the ring of power. Back story is only relevant if it's relevant to THIS story.
     
  13. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    To clarify a bit (imo), start when the arc/movement begins that leads to all the falling apart and 'end' of the story (I say 'end' because it may not actually be the end of the history of the character or world, it's just the end of the arc/movement).

    Starting as close to the end as possible would put Frodo on Mount Doom (not sure what it was really called, just guessing the most generic thing possible here) where he like tossed the ring into a vat of molten lava so it would stop terminating forever and would indeed NOT be back (same movie, right?). And a skilled writer could probably make a good short out of just that scene alone, because it's it's own mini-arc/movement, ya see?

    The key is finding these arcs/movements. They're like waves. You don't start surfing as close to the wave crashing as possible, as you wouldn't catch the wave. You start when you can barely see it forming, so it can gather momentum.
     
  14. dave_c
    Offline

    dave_c Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2010
    Messages:
    152
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    st helens, near liverpool
    i think i will stick with where the story originally started, really appreciate the advice, thank you. worst case scenario is that ill will write a prequel or a sequel that explains more of the past.
    after reading your comments iv looked back at the story and found i only really have a single "disaster" and according to most of the "how to" books iv been reading you really need three minimum.

    really appreciate the help all, thanks.
     
  15. gilnarian
    Offline

    gilnarian New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm having this very same problem. My beginning chapters as they stand now don't drive the story forward, so as tough as it is, I chopped them out. Now I have to make sure the important information is included bits at a time. Hopefully that will improve my pacing. I would definitely consider slipping the back story in if you think its relevant and helps move the story along.

    Jo
     

Share This Page