Friday, April 1, 2011

1000 words of backstory... and counting!

Last weekend, while I was sitting in the hospital beside my sweet, sleeping baby, I wrote 1000 words of back-story.

And dad gum it, I'm PROUD OF IT!

Many of you rule followers out there are cringing, as well as all those who read Wendy Miller's WONDERFUL post last week on back-story.

1000 words? Back-story? Where is the ruler to slap my hand with!?!

But hang in there with me so I can explain (before my hand is black and blue...)

Backstory isn't bad. Every great novel MUST have it.

It's how we put it into our novel that is the key. You can't "not" tell your reader what happened in the past. It is important and integral to your current story. The past is what makes us who we are today, just as Wendy pointed out. If we ignore it, it makes our current character feel flat and undeveloped, and leaves our reader confused.

My Back-Story Story

So about a year ago, I started on a new book. I wrote about 8000 words, then life took over and I wasn't able to get back to it until now.

Please keep in mind... I am a MAJOR seat-of-the-pants writer, so what I had was only a germ of a story, and I really wasn't sure where I was taking it. But I'd gotten to the point where I knew a little bit of what about what was going on and needed to get the details down.

So, I wrote back-story. 1000 words of it (and counting.) I just sat down last Saturday and let my brain run rampant through the fields of time. I wrote in free form everything that had happened to my characters, jotted notes about the stuff I didn't know and still needed to decide, and detailed the events that lead them up to their current conflict.

It was the most freeing exercise EVER. I flicked off the little guy on my shoulder that screams at me, "BACK-STORY ALERT... horrible writing Krista, STOP IT!"

And you know what? I think my book will be better for it. I know where my characters have come from and what makes them tick. I still have a few questions, but now as I get ready to actually write again, I can write from a place of confidence.

I still am very much SOTP writer. Not sure what's going to happen in the next chapter yet. But I am now equipped with the backstory and have the ability to sprinkle it into my pages a little at a time, to hint to some of their motivations, and give the reader little tastes of what happened long ago and why my characters are a little bit loony.

Moral of the story: The only info dumps needed are ones that won't make it into manuscript!

Discussion: How do YOU develop your character's back-story? Because there are a TON of different methods... the key is to make sure you DO IT!


We're at the end of the FIRST week of our 300 follower celebration!!! Today's give away is Laurie Alice Eakes "Lady in the Mist" (Thanks, Pepper, for helping me out with this one... you're a doll!)

Leave a comment to be eligible to win! This weeks winners will be announced on Saturday! 



Wendy Paine Miller said...

Krista, Yeah for that freeing experience!

Pure excellence comes from times like that. Thanks for the nod to my post.

I've written entire novels I know won't be published, but I can pull from descriptions and other concepts in them. Also, it's wonderful to know that much about your characters. I know people who like to journal as though they were their characters.

~ Wendy

Christine Long said...

Writing should be fun, fulling, and free-flowing. I agree that back-story isn't an evil to be avoided. It's more like the spinach that needs to be slipped into the cheesey-chicken casserole. If I don't over do it, my sister loves the casserole. If it's too much, she makes faces and picks out most of it. It's all a matter of balance. It takes experience (and a lot of editing!) for us SOTP to get it slipped in there correctly.

Please enter me in the drawing. I've seen Laurie's book all over the place and would love to win it!
teaching by writing [at] yahoo [dot] com

lgm52 said...

Would love to win this book..please enter looks like a great read!

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm glad you're writing again, Krista. Getting the backstory down can be quite helpful. We can't expect to move our characters forward if we don't know where they've been and what their issues are.

Casey said...

Oh A.M.E.N!!

You've got to know where ya been to move forward. You have to learn from history so you don't repeat it-though I think our characters tend to do so, don't they??

And great moral. :)

Leanne said...

I'd love to read this!

leanniegehrke at hotmail dot com

Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks for a chance to win. :)

Pam said...

Though I'm not a writer it is interesting to know what you writers go through to create the books I love to read.
I've read good reviews of "Lady in the Mist" so would really like to win it. Thanks for all the book giveaways this week.


Terrie Todd said...

Thanks for an awesome post! I'd love to win the copy of "Lady in the Mist."


Unknown said...

Last evening I wrote a clever comment, and then couldn't send because the cable went down. I just wanted to emphasize that I am who I am because of the past I lived; without that the story is lacking 75% at least of the motivation to write it. I'm a new writer, and writing a true story with some fictionalizing, but the story is in the past and the result is alive today. Could anyone else be as confused as I am? LOL Thank you for offering Laurie's Lady in the Mist. I also appreciate the chance to win it. I hope I do win!

Sharing His Love,
Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com