1. Ruckus

    Ruckus Banned

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    Writing background info that will never be seen

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ruckus, Feb 25, 2019.

    Recently I have been on a writing books/video binge. I enjoy doing this because not only am I emerged in a subject I love but I usually end up either learning something new or finding a new prospective.

    Sure the argument can be made that this is all a distraction from my own writing and it is, to a point, but today’s binge reminded me of a technique that has somehow fallen from my writing process over the course of however long. I am thinking that it’s absents has had a negative impact on the quality and content of what I write.

    It is along the lines of the iceberg theory. Where a writer might pen a few pages of background story or character development simply as a creative process. When I do this 90% or so of it will never be in the final story but the context and themes will influence and improve the story.

    I will discover details and gems that otherwise would have never bubbled to the surface of my mind. Something I will even discover an entirly new story apart from what I was writing.

    I guess I am writing about all of this to see if I am alone in this technique or is it more common?


    I will link the video that reminded me of all this.

     
  2. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    I definitely partake in this. I really quite enjoy it. I find a lot of new plot/character ideas. It's definitely helpful to have a bunch of background information to look to when trying to determine what might come next, what kind of judgment someone would make, etc.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I don't write background, but I have written dozens of scenes that aren't going to fit into the novel, and I've usually learned useful things from, or created useful things in, those scenes.
     
  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Uncle! Supporter Contributor

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    Someone here suggested writing scenes involving side characters to help you flesh them out, see how they think and react to things to avoid them being just walkons whose job is to deliver one bit of information or action. I've been trying to do some of that, with limited success.
     
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  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would recommend against penning background that isn't necessary for the character as he or she stands in your current work. That leaves you free and unbiased to take the character in new directions at a later time. Even if your character doesn't survive the current story, you could write a new story involving that character before his or her demise, and create new background elements to support that story.

    Don't write yourself into a corner. Great characters are gold, and can bridge your work for your readers, as long as you haven't too rigidly constrained them.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not sure I understand the OP. I'm reaching the 'dang, I've got this' part of my story. I probably have 200K or more words I'm not using. Some are whole chapters I've discarded and some are paragraphs and lines. I don't see the problem. If you're like me, discard material in a file you have access to, it's easier than deleting things.

    There are a lot of things my head goes through in the story that don't end up in the story. And that's peachy keen.

    And Cogito has good points.
     
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  7. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    I jot down notes. The book itself is the only canon, but it's useful to keep track of complicated backstories or politics, particularly when things are tightly woven together. I'd advise to keep it informal and disorganized though, as to keep the notes from taking over.
     
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  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I don't think any time you spend writing is "wasted." It could probably be used more effectively, sure, but 100% efficiency is neither possible or desirable. All the studies show that people are more productive when they take breaks and "waste" time.
     
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  9. Ruckus

    Ruckus Banned

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    I
    I've wasted more time in my life then I even want to think about. :-( but I see your point.
     
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  10. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I don't see how background and experimentation could be constraining. You are always able to choose what you want other than with an editor.
     
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  11. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    You don't need that much background and it can be too consuming to do trivia and note and stuff but it is certainly important to at least a little. I don't believe in simple stories or stories that are just serious and focused all the time. And as others have had there's also going to be notes and cut scenes you generate before you just write the final version. Especially with complex storylines and characters with interesting and relevant pasts.
     
  12. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    But it's NOT wasted! Your "main" writing will be enhanced by your "side" writing. Your paid work is enhanced by your hobby time. Embrace it!
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito's advice more or less—certainly when it comes to overdeveloping characters before writing the story. However, what I do find very useful is constructing a detailed background to the story before too much has happened in it.

    If the story is set in the real world—either in modern day or in a historical period—learn all you can about the part of the world or era that you're writing about. If you're 'worldbuilding' from scratch, see how much of it you can figure out ahead of time. Obviously some details will be added in later on, but try to get to know your setting well, before you start.

    Characters can certainly change, depending on what happens to them. Personal backstories can change as well. But if you start pulling too many threads in your story's physical setting—because you're weren't familiar enough with it when you started out—you can end up with problematic plot holes.
     
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  14. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's constraining because it becomes part of your internal canon for the character, which means you need to "unknow" it to take your character in a new direction. Your character adored her father? No wait, he disappeared from her life when she was fifteen, and her journey to track down what happened to him, and how it has affected her, becomes a much harder new story to write. So far as your original story is concerned, it wasn't important, but you have to review the original to make sure you didn't let your original bias bleed into that story.
     
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  15. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't know about this... I feel like there's a lot of richness that can be added to the original story by things the author "knows" off-page. I think the bias bleeding into the story is a GOOD thing, really, as long as it's consistent.
     
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