Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Looks Back

You know (maybe) how when you're driving, and you want to change lanes, you need to look behind you? And not just in the mirrors, but the blind spot as well, to get the full picture? Or else you end up like this?

(Pause for chuckling at above video.)

Turns out you need to do this in writing, too. And by this I mean, before you change a story's direction or move along with the plot, you need to fill in the reader on their blind spot--aka, backstory the character knows but has not conveyed yet that will make changing lanes/directions much smoother.

However, like in driving, you can't just whip around and stare at the blind spot like the freaky chipmunk and forget to look in front of you, because then your driving gets all wibbly and so does the plot. What I'm getting at here is that backstory must be worked in like a cool, nonchalant glance to the rear. The car/plot stays on course, but you know have a glimpse of the full picture.

For example:

UNCOOL FREAKY CHIPMUNK STARE: "Humphrey barreled across the corner, nearly knocking into me. This was significant because the first time we met Humphrey ran into me and we fell halfway down a flight of stairs, but that was okay because he was really hot and had a Hungarian accent and bought me a latte to apologize. Anyway, he didn't actually hit me this time, so let's move along with the story."

COOL REAR GLANCE: "Humphrey barreled around the corner, signature Humphrey style. I automatically stepped out of the way. Someday I might just let him run into me again--last time, which happened to be the first time we met--he bought me a latte as an apology for knocking me down half a flight of stairs. (Really, the Hungarian accent was enough to make me forget the whole bruised-tailbone, thing, but, you know, can't turn down the free coffee.)"

Maybe you prefer the former, but I find that the latter incorporates info in with voice and gives the backstory from the main character's perspective and reads like a conversation rather than notes from a creepy third-party stalker.

How do you prefer to work in the backstory?