Backstory

by on 12.10.2007

in progress, writing

I’m editing. Yes, still. And I’m having one of those moments, you know, when you want to smack yourself on the forehead, but instead of saying, “You could’ve had a V8!” you say, “How could you not have known that?!”

Backstory.

Oh, sure, I had backstory. I knew all about my heroine’s childhood, her parents, how she lost her virginity, and how she lost her true love. She’s 30. That’s up to about 20. I had even less for my hero.

See, here’s what got me: the story starts when the action begins. That’s one of those Rules. Notice the capital R? Rules. The Rules that cripple you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good rule. I get it (now). But what the novice writer in me read was: nothing happens, except what is relevant to the story, until the story starts. Which is just silly.

First of all, who sits around doing nothing for ten years? Nobody I want to read about, that’s who. And really, once you get to know your characters and your story, it’s a lot easier to explore their history. But, take it from me, this is something you should do before you’ve written 400 pages and realize that the first 130 pages are going to need serious work, which means the rest will need serious work weaving in all the new things you’ve discovered.

Second, how do you know what’s relevant if you don’t just sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop or a wall and chalk, if you don’t dig in and find out? I don’t think you can make things up to fit your story. I mean, clearly, you’re writing fiction–you’re making it up. But, if you just comb through, pull this out, that out… and then you’re character says, “See! That’s how I got in this spot. And, you know, later, when that other thing happens? Think how that’s going to just rip me apart.”

Meh. I’m off to dig. And to write twenty times, “I will not blog in the second person.”

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