Backstory

So, I’ve been doing a lot of revisions in my head lately. That is, I’ve been reviewing the scenes of “Manifestation” and considering how best to improve the book. I’ve also gotten some advice from outside sources that helped me reconsider how I’ve handled a few things in the book.

The idea I’m bouncing around right now is “Where does the STORY begin?”

My first few chapters are, I think, essentially backstory. They were crucial in some cases for me, as the author, to better understand my characters. However, I don’t think some of those scenes are necessarily crucial for the reader. In fact, I think that cutting some of them would add a touch of mystery and suspense to the story.

This could mean cutting a lot. Thousands of words. That’s not going to be easy. I’m not good at making cuts. I know sometimes they’re needed, no matter how much I might like the stuff being cut (on the other hand, there’s at least two sections that I just hate and want to kill with fire). But I think it might be necessary, whether I like doing it or not.

Hopefully what’s left will be stronger as a result. And I still have the backstory for myself in case I ever need it to remind me where the characters started.

So how do you know where the “story” begins?

That can be a bit difficult to say. It requires you to really think about what the focus of the story is. If you say something like “The story is about Character Y,” that’s not really defining the story. A story about Character Y could begin anywhere from their birth onward and end with their death. You can’t tell someone’s entire life story most of the time. Sure, there are exceptions, but most books I read start with the character already as a teen or adult. If the story starts with the character as a baby, that’s usually more of a prologue (Harry Potter, for example, skips from the death of his parents straight to when he is an adolescent, skipping the intervening decade entirely).

So instead of saying “The story is about Character Y,” you should say “The story is about Character Y did A, B, and C.” Harry Potter’s story is about his adventures in school, not just about Harry himself. The Lord of the Rings is about Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom, not about Frodo growing up in the Shire. And so on, and so forth. The story is a snapshot of that character’s life, and it has to start where the snapshot begins, not where the character begins.

Anything about the character that isn’t part of the story is your backstory.

My story is about Gabby and Tock and their troubles during a disaster. Everything before the disaster, except parts specifically leading to that particular point, is backstory. It needs to be removed.

Now that I know what happened in that backstory, I can use those elements where they fit throughout the rest. If I think it’s important to know certain details of their pasts, it can be revealed as part of the story. If it’s not needed for the present-day part of the story, it’s just history.

I think part of the reason I originally wrote so much backstory was that, at first, I only had a vague idea of where I was going with the main plot. I had lots of ideas about certain things I wanted to do, but none of them were concrete (and most of my plans changed drastically, as is their wont). It’s only looking back at the whole book now that I can point and say “THIS is where the real story begins!”

So I’m going to have to do that. Wish me luck.

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