B is for Backstory

15 May

“A writer is a man who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do.” – Donald Barthelme

If you have ever started a story and got stuck in that first act and couldn’t go on, maybe it’s because you never really understood what happened before the story starts. Knowing where to start can sometimes be confusing. Do we go back to the very beginning or do we jump in with the action. Most times you will start with the action but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what happened to get the characters there. The key word is know. You need the information to put all the pieces together. You don’t necessarily need to share that information with the reader. At least not all of it. The important stuff can trickle in with the telling.

I shared this other little trick in an earlier post but I think it is worth sharing again, in case you missed it the first time. Determine the back story of each of your characters. Go back a month before the story starts with each character individually. What was the character’s goal, motivation, or conflict at that time? What was going on in their life? Determining that information for the secondary characters and antagonist and suspects or victims, depending on the genre of book you are writing can help you develop sub-plots.

I hope the past week has been a productive writing week. I have to admit I spent more time reading than writing. When life throws me a curve it’s easier for me to escape into a book than push myself to write. As some of you know, my brother passed away so I have been dealing with his loss. I also had a medical procedure at the end of the week. Everything turned out fine but these little personal detours seem to wreck havoc on my writing goals. It boots me out of a healthy writing mind set and it takes me a little while to climb back in the saddle and point that pony toward my book’s completion.

No matter what happens though, if I stay away from writing too long, I get that urge that won’t leave me alone until I sit down and put some words together.

If you live in the Des Moines area and are looking for a writing group, Central Iowa Fiction Writers meet the third Saturday of each month at the West Des Moines Community Center in Valley Junction at 10:00 AM.  If you have an interest in mystery writing or reading, Sisters-in-Crime Iowa meets the same day at Smokey Row Coffee Shop at 3:00 PM. Maybe I’ll see you there.

May this be a productive week for all of us. Look forward to seeing some of you Saturday.

P.S. Finished ‘Get Fluffy”. Now I gotta get it autographed.



Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Novel Writing


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “B is for Backstory

  1. K

    May 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother, Virginia. Loss always throws us for a loop even if it is expected. Baby yourself! Escape into reading as much as you want – I always find it grounds me. 🙂 Thoughts and hugs! Kathy


  2. K

    May 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother Virginia! Loss always throws us for a loop even if we know it is coming. Take the time to baby yourself and read to your hearts content – reading always helps ground me. Thoughts and hugs! Kathy



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