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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Back Story

15 comments:

HelenMHunt said...

With back story I tend to trickle it in via character's internal dialogue. (Easier if you're writing in first person.) My experience is based on short stories though and it sounds like yours is a longer piece. It might still be possible to do it like that though rather than a separate plot thread. I know I will have to tackle this issue with my novel eventually, but not there yet.

All I know about printers is that they need ink and paper so I'm afraid I can't contribute much to that debate.

Calistro said...

Yep, weave it into conversation and thoughts without being a massive info dump. In Heaven Can Wait I had a similar problem - I needed to show the MC's relationship history with the fiance she was desperately trying to get back to without sticking it all at the beginning and massively slowing the plot. Mostly I weaved it in by something reminding her of her fiance, quick flashback (to show a lovely relationship memory) then back to the story. The secret is to keep the flashbacks short enough that the reader doesn't get bored (whether or I achieved that or not I don't know!).

Re printers - the Brother DCP-115C I won in the Woman's Own comp back in 2005 is still going strong (it also scans/photocopies etc). Unfortunately the cartridges are quite expensive and if you run out of cyan/magenta/etc it refuses to print in black (even if there's loads of black left!). That said I've printed out HUNDREDS (possibly thousands) of pages with few problems (and some photos on high quality paper with good results).

Annieye said...

Agree with Helen and Calistro - in my latest novel, I introduced a box of memorabilia (old magazines, photographs, letters and parish newsletters) which the characters researched whilst the main story was being told.

You could probably use antiques/artifacts?

It is difficult to do it, but it's best to remember to use a light touch and sometimes you don't need to spell things out, you can point the reader in the right direction and let their imagination run riot with just merest hints of what might have happened in the past.

Caroline said...

Re: printers - if you just want black and white, I can highly recommend the HP LaserJet 1020. The printer itself cost about £60, the toners are about £45 (I buy from Euroffice and get cashback via Quidco). A toner lasts me about 5 months, printing about 750-1000 pages of A4 a month.

Lane said...

Agree with the others. My m/c's backstory is dribbled in through bits of dialogue, thoughts etc. Easier said than done but I think touches of backstory indicate the 'past' better than a chunk of explanation.

As for printers? Mine is slow and jams. Let us know which whizzy model you choose.

And the sign language??

Captain Black said...

Helen: You're right, it's a novella or possibly even novel length piece.

Calistro: Not sure I need a colour printer, but I'll consider it anyway. I think most serious printers have expensive refills. Your back story weaving technique appeals but I don't think it'll work in my case, as it would effectively be thread number five. Good idea for my other works though.

Annie: All good tips, but a bit too late for me. As you've probably guessed, I've got some serious plot versus storytelling technique issues. I'm starting to think a major re-factoring is on the cards.

Caroline: Thanks for the printer tip. I was a bit put off by HP as a brand, as that's what my current one is. Perhaps their laser-jets are better than their ink-jets.

Lane: If you want to decode the sign language, then there's a handy look-up table inside the cover of Black Boxes :o)

Everyone: The trickling in of the back story via characters/flashbacks in the main threads, is a very good idea in general. In fact, now I think of it, I vaguely remember reading it somewhere, so thanks for reminding me of that technique. I'll use that in some of my work. Unfortunately, for the story in question, I think I'm going to have to show/tell the back story in a bigger way. There's just too much of it, you see. Perhaps one almighty big flashback but with added action, might do the trick.

JJ Beattie said...

Printers, eh? The price of cartridges is a shocker. I remember reading that Which did a study and said the Epsom models told the user they were out of ink when it was still a quarter full... and it WOULDN'T let you ignore the message and continue draining it...

So 'Disgusted from Bangkok' isn't much help either on the printer front!

Karen said...

Tricky, as your work sounds quite complex. Would a prologue of backstory work, or be too clunky?

L-Plate Author said...

I agree with the majority, Capt. I do the same, dribs and drabs, weave them in where they aren't so 'in your face' and more part of day to day life. I do the same with 'clues'. Sometimes the backstory can be used as the clue even - in my genre.

I also have the same printer as Caroline and if black on white is all you need, it is a good one, pretty quick too.

Captain Black said...

JJ: I'll try to watch out for ink-cartridge scams like the one you mentioned. I've had some experience with being able to remove the cartridge and give it a shake before replacing it again. That can squeeze a bit more life out of it. Either that or you get toner all over yourself.

Karen: A prologue is what I originally thought I'd do, but I avoided it as the back story by itself is a bit dull. I'm revisiting this idea now, though I'd have to beef up the action, whether for prologue or for flashback.

L-Plate: One problem with the dribbling technique (!) is that my particular back story has become far too important to the plot. Maybe I'll just write all the scenes, back story and all, then throw them up into the air and see what lands...

motherx said...

H.P Packard printers are pretty good and simple to work, which is important for me:) Has never broken down and prints like a dream.

Captain Black said...

Mother X: Thanks for the advice. Is your HP a laser printer? I ask because I have an ink-jet HP and it's awful!

catdownunder said...

Yes, I will get back to writing - can you read paw prints?

Captain Black said...

Cat: Hello {waves upside-down}. Thanks for visiting. I can read many languages, paw prints being one of them :o)

catdownunder said...

Better than my late boss Cap'n - he did not read paw prints. Came to prowl and found you are asleep!