Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lost in the Backstory

I have been flipping back and forth between projects that are in various stages of not-done-ness, and was getting bored and frustrated, so I did the logical thing:  closed the files and opened a new one. 

I decided that rather than trying to plot in outline form, or any of the other sixteen hundred ways I've seen plotting suggested, or to try pantsing from chapter one, I would start with some back story. I just started writing narrative, and am not worrying about how much time I am spending on it...I tend to feel like I am supposed to jump into things and WRITE SCENES, and that since back story isn't in the real story, that it's not that important.  Huh?  I'm pretty sure it's even MORE important than the "real" story, in a way. Back Story should be capitalized!  It's what gives our hero a fragile ego and the will to overcome his fears, and makes our heroine so skittish about relationships when she's so courageous everywhere else.  If I don't have all of this figured out in advance, I'll be going back and forth changing things constantly as I figure out who everyone is and why they are doing things.

I am finding myself actually writing the story in reverse now.  It's kind of like this: (note:  this is not my real story...I'm a little too superstitious to put that out here just yet)

What if guy who is afraid of water  falls in love with a lifeguard and has to get over his fear of water to rescue her and prove his love? 
Well, why is he afraid of water?
Umm....his twin brother drowned on a boy scout campout when they were 12, and the hero thinks he should have been able to save him, and now he has to much PTSD over the whole thing that he avoids water like the plague, except to take showers (never baths). 
So how does he meet the lifeguard? 
His son has to pass a swimming test to be allowed to go to summer camp.
Wait, he's got a son?  Where is the kid's mom? 
They are divorced and she's in rehab for meth addiction, but she's going to come back and her dealer/pimp/boyfriend is going to  kidnap the kid and the lifeguard .
How did our great dad/hottie/all around good guy hero get messed up with a skanky ho meth addict in the first place?
well, he had low self esteem because of the thing with his brother.

Okay, you get the picture.  So I am basically just kind of writing back and forth, but mostly back.  I am actually writing this stuff down this time, before I get to the actual point of writing more than notes about what might make a good scene later on.   Do other people do it this way? 


  1. That sounds a lot like the "notes" file I keep for each book. I'm a pantser at heart, but if I think of something while I'm writing that might be useful later in the story, I put it in the file. Otherwise I might forget it.

  2. Nope. I have reasonably fixed characters by the time they show up in my head. I must admit though that knowing each one's back story is very useful when writing the actualy one.


  3. I currently have a file with a 16K word count of "Backstory". I started writing it as a character sketch in first person and it took on a life of its own. It's going make a great story if I can ever get the main character to quit talking about herself! :)

    Working backward sounds perfectly logical to me. At least you know exactly where the story is heading and it sounds like you are filling in all the "plot holes" before they have a chance to develop into craters!