Monday, January 23, 2012
Now that's just bad luck!
You know last week when I mentioned I tend to use the same shoe picture more than once? Well, this is one of those times. I remembered using this picture back in 2009, and I thought it would be perfect for what I wanted to talk about today. What I didn't remember was what that older post was about. Funny thing is, it was not all that different from what I'm going to post today. If you're dying of curiosity, you can read it here.
Back in 2009, I used this picture to initiate a discussion about inner conflict. Sure, we can see that the woman's heel is broken, which is an inconvenient external conflict. What we can't see, is what's going on inside of her. Why might this broken heel be such a horrible thing for her? Today's post was supposed to be about backstory. What in this woman's past has made this broken heel such a crisis? Were these the much beloved shoes of her dead grandmother? Did her ex-husband give them to her? Did this very heel save her life when she used it to bash in the skull of the man who tried to rape her?
What I'm getting at today (as I was in the 2009 post) is this: Why do we care that this woman has broken a heel? On the surface, it's just a piece of bad luck. Yes, if it happened to me, it would be an inconvenience so I might feel sorry for her for a moment. But if I passed this woman on the street in the morning as she struggled with her shoe, I'd probably forget all about her by lunchtime because I don't know her. And since I don't know her, I don't care a whole lot. Certainly not enough to read a 200 plus page book about her.
I've had some issues recently with making my MC likable--someone the reader will care about--so I re-read the first chapters of some of my favorite books with characters I loved immediately and could not stop thinking about long after I finished reading the book. You know what they all had in common? Backstory. Not only in the first chapter, but on the very first page. This goes against everything I've learned since I actively began pursuing novel writing. So, as things often do, it's got me thinking...what is the deal with backstory? Why is it so frowned upon? Wouldn't you be more likely to read a book about this woman with the broken heel if you knew right away that the shoes were special to her because they saved her life?
Now, I'm not saying I'm going against the grain and want to start some kind of pro-backstory protest. I just want to hear your thoughts on the matter. And if you have any appropriate links on the subject, please do share. I'll be posting more about this in the next few days, but for now, I'd love to know what you think.