Saturday, March 31, 2007

Proliferation of Backstory

I hate the whole term "backstory." Blah. I was talking with a fellow writer once, and he was struggling with how to keep a reader interested in his novel when there was so much necessary "backstory" to communicate up front.

My advice? If the backstory is that important, then maybe it needs to be the frontstory. If it doesn't, then maybe it's not as important to explain as you think it is.

So I have this wonderful little story going. Eleven chapters of a wonderful little story. And suddenly I have backstory coming out of the woodworks. And I find myself tempted to do flashbacks, or dream sequences, or some other type of fictional device that I've never particularly liked to read because it seemed contrived.

No, I tell myself. I am not going to resort to flashbacks and dream sequences. If this backstory is that wonderful and intriguing and important, then I need to make it my frontstory and reconsider the novel as a whole.

I may end up doing that. But for now, I'm going to focus on my frontstory. What is lacking in my frontstory? Why have I been so drawn to the backstory, and why does the frontstory seem so uninteresting in comparison? Clearly, I need to jump-start the frontstory. Inject it with a little fictional fuel. Or at least spend a little more time thinking about it, thus enabling myself to see, once again, why I found it worth writing about in the first place.

My plan? For now, keep the frontstory the frontstory. Let its natural conflict and tension come out--that conflict and tension that drew me to it in the first place. Let it be of more immediate interest than the backstory. And let the backstory serve as an engrossing narrative for the "slow" parts between the "action scenes" of the frontstory.

I hate the terms "backstory" and "frontstory." They sound so manipulative, like I'm manipulating my child to behave a certain way. But I guess that's part of what writing a novel is about. I have to let things happen, but I also need to keep the upper hand.

Back to the backstory. I mean the frontstory. I mean to sleep. More writing tomorrow.

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