Let me preface my question by saying--wherever it appears, even in the first chapter--I use it sparingly.
Your thoughts, please.
Also comment away on backstory and its uses.
I don't like a lot of it. Not more than a sentence or two.
you won't ever lose it!
Clearly, you aren't grinding them out. You're writing books that are books and happen to be in a series. I love that sort of series, where the hero changes a little and the intimate world around him/her is not static.
time I don't think is as important. the passage of I mean. but the other things are.
and Kim! we always remember our first time right(?!)
and hugs back!
Here's the wisest bit of advice in regard to backstory I've ever heard, and it's by Michael Connelly, who is a master at weaving it in, by the way ...
"[K]eep the idea that the story is moving forward and backward at any given time. It's obviously moving forward because the plot is carrying it forward. But you should always--and this takes a lot of finesse so it doesn't stop that forward movement--be dropping in things about characters that start filling out their backstories ... that's one of the hardest things to do as a writer. You can't suddenly put in two paragraphs about how a character did something growing up, because it stops the forward movement dead."
If you look at how Connelly does it, especially in the early parts of his novels, you'll see he may only provide a single sentence of backstory at a time.
yes I have read him. I will re-read him again to see how he does it, because I need to go back.
I've been going back to authors to see certain aspects of writing and how they manage.
excellent reply and sugestion.
it is hard but he's so skilled and so smooth in how he does it.
know whtat? i'm going to go back to him today.
thanks so much.
i agree, though I also think it's the way it's done.
I also love the way James Lee Burke does it: his character's backstory is always a great paty of their nowstory. Dave Robicheaux carries his history around with him like a wet mattress - it defines and shapes everything he does. The very air that Burke's characters breath is air that's been used before. There is no present without the past.
I just wish I had a tenth of the talent he has. Unfortunately, I'm human, and I'm not at all sure that he is. Divinity has its drawbacks, I'm sure.
Ed Mcbain, of course, has an enormous problem (actually, is he still alive?). His policemen have had to stay in the mid-30s to mid-40s for thirty years now: they have more history than the Roman Empire.
As a reader, I must say I prefer to read backstory when it moves the story forward, or when I'm surprised by an action. "What the hell is this character doing / saying that for?"
As I writer, I hate backstory: I already know this stuff, and it's getting in the way of the story. In fact, it guides and steers the story, but I still find it painful to actually write.
Yes characters have their own way of dealing with their past history. the author being the puppeteer controls it. the thing is, the reader must never see the strings or the puppeteer!
McBain, I love his early books especially.
and no, he isn't alive. he died a few months ago.
Yes, his characters are all the ages they were from the 1950's.
he moves certain things forward, but barely so.
Their children are older--but not in their fifties for instance!
what I'm doing with backstory now is I've cut it down for the final draft (hope it is the final)--
It is far more minimalist than its ever been. and when I read it back, it's sparse (the backstory) and sounds better. but it's there to a certain extent (if I feel it is needed).
as for reading backstory, I don't want to know what I don't find crucial to the character and the plot--however, I certainly want some background knowledge--just enough for me to understand and feel for the characters.
and depending on how that backstory is presented--I'll like it or I won't.
so thank you for that.
Backstory gets real tiresome real fast. Only tidbits can be slipped in as necessary throughout a novel, and never gratuitously, only when relevent to the current plotting. That's my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth.
Donna Carrick www.donnacarrick.com
I rate your two cents as being far more valuable!
I agree. When I first started this novel, I had too much backstory. Not pages and pages but too much--
then when I thought about it, reading replies and re-reading what I had, I KNEW it was too much.
Now, in my third/final draft (not sure if is final yet) I am so brief. A sentence maybe--here and there and that's it! A thought even--like one sentence of a thought--or a snippet of conversation.
I do agree with you, Donna.