Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes

For those of you who are new here, when I take a longer than usual break from blogging, I call it "Hanging Up My Shoes". And if you ask around, you'll find out that when I do go on break, good things tend to happen to my followers. Several have signed with agents. Several have sold books. So, who knows? This could be your lucky week! I intended on taking a break later this month, but some unexpected things came up, forcing me to take it a little sooner than expected. I know I promised some more on my research about back story, and I will get to that when I return. Which, if all goes as planned, will be in the next week or so. I will be around reading blogs as much as possible in the meantime.

Now, I have one very important question for you: Is "backstory" one word? Or is it two (back story)? I've seen it both ways, and you may have noticed that I've alternated between the two. According to Wikipedia, either is correct. And my research sources varied on the spelling. But according to the spell check on Blogger and on MS Word, back story (two words) is correct. Just for fun, I thought I'd poll you and see what the popular choice is.

So, what say you? Back story? Or Backstory?

Friday, February 3, 2012


This shoe brings up all kinds of emotion! Mostly fear. Not only of the thing inside it, but the height of that heel! Yeesh! I'd break my neck if I tried to wear that thing. I'm sure there would be a time and place where one might wear such a thing. Take a Halloween costume party for example.

Just like there is an appropriate time and place for shoes to be worn, there is also an appropriate time and place where backstory should be inserted. Instead of getting into all the places it doesn't belong right now (we'll get to that later), I'd like to discuss where it does belong.

Darcy Pattison explains it well here. She says that backstory is there to add emotional weight to the story. It can strengthen characters' motivations and make events mean more. She states that backstory should be put exactly where it impacts the emotional weight of the story.

Like the idea of using backstory to "hook" the reader, the idea of using it to heighten emotion is not so much a rule as a logical guideline. It makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

I'll be back next week for more on the topic of backstory. Until then, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Okay, so maybe I was wrong...

Apparently there IS black and white in fiction writing. Well, not exactly, but I did find it interesting that shortly after I wrote my last post about how there was no black and white in writing, I came across this post by Jeannette Cezanne on the Beyond The Elements of Style blog. If you happen to click over, you'll read all about black and white in her sidebar.

Anyway, Jeannette's post has nothing to do with black and white. It's about backstory. It's short and does not give a lot of information, but it does mimic a comment from one of my readers, Angela Ackerman, on my initial post on backstory. Here's what Angela has to say about backstory:

I think the trick with backstory is to look at it as .
'hooks'. Dole out tiny bits that get the reader asking more questions and make them intrigued enough to keep reading.

Backstory also has to tie into the current action. For example, the backstory event in my books opening is that the mc recently had a drowning accident. How can I get this info out without a ton of pace killing telling? Make her first scene in a bathroom with her little brother, attending a toilet send off for his beloved fish. The dead fish in the water is a natural trigger for her to relive what happened to her, and so when it comes out, it isn't dumpy, but hooks the reader along to find out what exactly happened.

This comment made perfect sense to me. Backstory should be there to draw the reader in, not push them out of the story. When put that way, I do think there is some black and white truth to this. It's not exactly a rule. It's a logical guideline. Every writer wants to draw the reader in. Looking at backstory as "hooks" as Angela said, can help you to include it at the right time in the right amount. Jeannette's post that I mentioned at the beginning here, says almost the exact same thing.

So, do you have any examples of backstory hooks?