Monday, June 8, 2009

The More Baggage they Have, The More Difficult to Write

I'm discovering this very truth as I struggle through edits.

Backstory so easily wants to invade those initial pages when you have a hero and heroine rich in baggage. Baggage that has molded them to be who they are at the onset of the current story. Baggage that needs a resolution before character growth can take place.

So how do we get a story to lift off with characters whose pasts scream for exposure early on?

Cut, cut, cut...backstory...no matter how difficult.

Think in terms of morsels. Hints. The reader DOESN'T need to know all!

If a character is becoming unlikeable because of the effects of his/her past, that's when a short nibble of back story put in a dialogue tag or a snippet of exposition is required to hold empathy. But supply just enough to retain the reader's sympathy. Slowly divulge the baggage throughout the whole of the story, so that the current world they live in keeps moving despite how much their past currently drives them.

That's how I'm attempting to fix my back story blunders. How do you go about getting a story firmly moving when the past seems so relevant to everything they do?


Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

15 comments:

Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, so very true...and so very hard when you're like me...afflicted with--

WADs


(coined by Georgiana)

You see, I have a nearly terminal case of Word Attachment Disorder. So hard to cut words, but oh, so necessary!

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh Eileen, I'm with you on this! I've been drowning in my edits and have had to cut backstory, but in my case as a historical writer, I'm having to cut that wonderful historcial information that I spent hours and hours researching, but now realize isn't necessary for the progression of the plot! It's definitely painful. But in the end will produce a tighter, more readable, and hopefully memorable story!

The trick is knowing that background info. so well that it just naturally oozes into the flow of our stories.

Warren Baldwin said...

How can backstory function so influentially at the beginning of a story? Are the backstory details solely in the author's mind? Or does it refer to revealing to many details to early? A question from a nonfiction writer, can you tell?

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Erica, I must have WAD's too, or maybe just BAD's--Back story attachment disorder. LOL

Jody, I find my problem is that I do know it too well and think it's so fascinating that it needs to be in there. Troubles, troubles, everywhere for me.

Warren, Back story is known to hault the pace of a fictional story, slow it down immeasurably. It's not good to put much in at all, especially in the first couple chapters until the momentum of the story is off and running. For beginner writers, too much back story can kill a sale big time. Readers want to swept up into the now of the story and taken on a quick ride with only minimal pausing to hear what happened before. Does that help answer your question?

Jessica said...

I like what you said about adding snippets to make the character more empathetic. I know you read the Seekers blog. Did you see Mary Connealy's comment the other day about backstory? She said it's usually in the actual story and therefore isn't needed at the beginning. I think she's right, that everything we want to pile right up at the front is eventually revealed anyways.

I had tons of backstory in my first manuscript. LOL

Amy De Trempe said...

Backstory has alwasy been a problem for me. Now I just write it with the first chapter and really start the story in Chap 2, which then becomes one as I weave in the info from Chap 1 into the rest of the WIP. Ya, it can be confusing but I find if I don't get the backstory down I can't move forward.

Cindy said...

Yes! This is so applicable to my current revision. I went right ahead and did a whole (though it wasn't too long) chapter on backstory. As my first chapter! Ugh, I don't know what I was thinking. Now I am working on weaving the story throughout the present and the dialogue.

sherrinda said...

I had to smile, because my sister-in-law read through the first few chapters of my WIP and was asking me questions because I did not have ENOUGH backstory, I guess. Funny, huh?

Katie said...

AGH! I hate cutting. But I must do it. It's SO hard to do! I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with this. I'm only half way through my first revision for my WIP and I've already cut 10,000 words! Isn't that nuts?!?

Jill Kemerer said...

Well, I'm going to confess to be the backstory queen! My name is Jill and I'm a recovering Backstory Addict...

I can't say I've utterly succeeded, but I have a new philosophy when I'm writing. I pretend the reader already knows everything about the characters and I'm just updating the reader on this current blip in the characters' life. (Kind of like an update on your first cousin.) It helps!

Terri Tiffany said...

I've probably got way too much I know. I wanted to share it in the more in the beginning but may have to move it around. Thank you!

Krista Phillips said...

Me too!!!! I actually have gotten good at deleting the backstory in the first part of the book, but it's figuring out the best way to add it back to tie out the readers that I'm still figuring out. It's a WIP, LOL

Chole said...

Thanks!! I think I've been overdoing on the backstory lately. Appreciate the advice.

Georgiana said...

WADs and BADs--definitely afflictions writers can live without!

I tend to introduce snippets, the same way someone would reveal on a first date. Revealing everything on a first date would be enough to scare away the best of men (or readers, LOL!)

Koala Bear Writer said...

Read authors who've handled this well. Lisa Samson's latest novel is great for revealing backstory just enough at a time. :) I heard once that authors should know way more about their characters than ever appears in the book. Get someone else to take a lookt at it. They can tell you if they're bored because there's too much or confused because there's too little.