1. WhitneyBlaine

    WhitneyBlaine New Member

    Mar 2, 2011
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    Plot Placement Issue

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by WhitneyBlaine, Mar 2, 2011.

    Hi, I am attempting to construct an outline for a story I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now and am looking for some opinions about how I should structure it.

    My main character is a woman whose past is essential to the plot, but I’m not sure how to incorporate it. The quick and dirty of it is: She blames herself for the death of a past lover (with whom she had a child-post father's death), and believes she has learned from that experience, when really it only hinders her relationship with her son, and consequently her son's relationship with his girlfriend. Her son believes his mother's current husband is his father, because the MC's family did not want her having a child out of wedlock.

    For a while I thought I’d just go about it chronologically, and have it in the beginning of the story. I know that it will be a fairly significant chunk of story, which is what struck my initial worry. The son and his girlfriend are an important part of the plot, but by placing the MC's back story at the beginning, it wouldn't come to them for quite a while.

    On the other hand I’m on the fence about randomly incorporating her past throughout the story, because that seems like it would create a disconnect with the plot. So that lead me to think about maybe having flashbacks, or one of the characters coming across her diary and discovering what she went through that way, (which does make me cringe because it’s ridiculously cliché, and my character really isn't the type to keep a diary) but that’s just a few thoughts I've had. If anyone has any suggestions or tips of how I can go about this I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
  2. Melzaar the Almighty

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributor Contributor

    Aug 28, 2010
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    Look carefully at it, and think how much you *really* need to tell. You already summarised it in a paragraph for us - can it really only be fed in from inference and a few comments? I try to cram in a lot of back story, but I've been forcing myself to cut it out lately. I *know* it's important to the plot, but there's few good ways of telling the story - most times it only works as a fluke, or with very careful planning. One story, I did use backstory in flashbacks, but only because it was equal to or greater than the "present" events, and only by telling the past out of order to the present as it occurred to characters in natural scene changes could I save the stress of trying to present a fractured 2 year period in one neat novel.

    If all the events happened at once, then splicing the two halves may be an option, if they're of equal length, so you can go scene for scene. If you can't make the history scene for scene, then maybe a short relevant section, like, so short it barely reveals anything, at the beginning of each chapter could be a fun gimmick - so you get a sense of the past, but aside from what characters say, you never REALLY know the full story.

    the most important thing to remember is that you have chosen to set the story WHEN IT IS SET. Clearly that time is important. Keep the focus on that time. I don't go spilling my backstory every time something stressful happens to me. Like, when I was sick with tonsillitis I told the doctor, "Ha ha, this is almost as bad as the time I had swine flu" - I did not give him every detail of the suspicious sore throat to the puking the next day and then the two weeks laid up on the sofa and the films I watched and friends who came around to laugh at me from a safe distance. In fact, that longer description would still stand as a short cut to telling you about it if in the first draft I wrote a 20-page story just about my time on the sofa.

    Point is, having a character say "Oh, I don't eat ice cream any more... not since..." and then tearing up and running from the room is a lot more dramatic and tells a surprising amount. If you just need the emotional significance to their lives present, then all the other details are just texture.
  3. Preacher

    Preacher New Member

    Mar 1, 2011
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    Charlotte, NC
    My story is similar in that the MC is also a woman whose past is integral to the plot.

    Since the a lot of the story hinges on what turned out to be four or five chapters worth of material, I ended up interspersing the backstory with the main story.

    One chapter main plot, one flashback etc. The first transition, since there literally is no segue, might be a touch jarring the reader, but once they get past the first one, the rest will seem old hat. Or so my proof-reader assured me.. :)
  4. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

    Jan 21, 2011
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    My story is fairly chronologically, and I am experiencing the problem that it soon becomes a 'then this, then that, then this' story. Weaving in the past through a flasback can also be in the present, e.g., two family members talking about yr MC ("It's logical she overreacts on this guy's silly remarks - he looks so similar to her John" etc). Or an old aunt, or an older friend who is hallucinating on his deathbed, ... So, I guess it doesn't have to be a diary.


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