Where Did I Put My Tiara

The life unglamorous . . .

My Photo
Location: Utah, United States

see biography at http://www.marjoriejones.com

Saturday, April 22, 2006

No Backstory in Chapter One

*big huge sigh*
I suppose it had to happen.  Something I AGREE with.  But in my defense, I wouldn't characterize this as a schmule, or even a rule.  It's simply good technique.
When we write a novel, we have a finite number of pages to tell the story at hand.  What happens to the characters before the novel starts might be paramount to their character, their ideas and behaviors, their motivations, and it may even have something to do with the actual story as it happens now.  How you deliver that information, the information of the past, is the key.  Telling the events of the past as 'real time' in the current novel proper isn't going to cut it. 
As they say in Hollywood:  Cut to the chase, folks. 
There are several ways to deliver backstory pertinent to the current novel.  Prologue, Weaving, and Flashbacks.
The Prologue
This is an unnumbered chapter set before the beginning of the book.  It should be entertaining and pertinent to the book.  Something in the prologue should lead to events in the book, build characterization, or pose a question that will be answered later.  I have prologues in both The Jewel and the Sword and The Lighthorseman, but I don't have them in either Starla Child's Firelight nor Raleigh Kincaid's Tapestry of Wonders. 
Slight side rant:  Schmule:  Never have a prologue - Readers skip them and editors hate them. 
Response:  Bite me.
Sorry, I digress.  The second manner in which to deliver your backstory is the Weaving Technique.  Throughout the course of the novel, you drop hints that something powerful happened in the distant or not-so-distant past that is guiding the characters decision-making process and actions.  This is a wonderful technique because it builds the level of drama and suspense and keeps the reader turning the pages.  I'm using this in The Flyer, the sequel to The Lighthorseman, which, thus far, has no prologue.
The final technique involves the Flashback.  I've heard folks say they hate them.  I have no opinion other than to say that I have used them in at least one book, Dawn of Love, slated to come out later this year.  In fact, the flashbacks in this novel could be a novel of their own.  It's the story of my Vampire hero's former life, and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  But this wasn't "his story".  His story involves the current heroine, his happily-ever-after comes much later, and his former story has much to do with it.  Flashbacks were the best way to go about it in this case.
Ultimately, the decision of how to involve the characters' pasts is up to you.  If the past has an impact on the present, we must deliver that information.  Unfortunately, the first few chapters isn't the place to do it.  In my opinion, a good novel will center on the present, then bring in the motivations of the past later on. 
You all know I don't believe in schmules.  But I do believe in good, solid writing.


Blogger Suprina said...

I also love Prologues. So here, here, madam!

10:00 PM  
Blogger Suprina said...

Marjorie, I was wondering if you would address another smule soon. It deals more with descriptions or rather the overuse of them.

For instance, is it really necessary for a scene to contain what 'everybody' is wearing? Including the secondary characters?

Talking about those kinds of things seems to slow the pace down. I mean, when the hero and heroine are about to kiss for the first time, do we really have to talk about their clothing (unless those clothes are about to come off)?

Same thing with the setting. It seems awkward to go into too much detail about the weather or a specific setting when those things have little to do with the current interaction between the h/h.

What's your take on that?

10:33 AM  
Blogger Suprina said...

Meant to say 'schmule' in that other post. LOL. That's what I get for typing too fast.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Marjorie Jones said...

Hi Suprina,

Long time no chat! Yes, I'm surfing myself on Google and came across this page. I'm shameless.

I have been going through some rough patches in the personal life lately, but I'm beginning to get the writing bug again! That's great news... for me anyway. Not sure about the unsuspecting reading public LOL.

As to your question (I know, nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?) I have some opinions on this subject, yes.

Descriptions. A few lines about the topography, the weather, the current state of the world can be a good thing. In my Australian set novels, I have a bit more in the landscape department because the landscape is almost a character unto itself in these books. But generally, we don't need to know the exact longitude of a mountain range (unless it's pertinent to the story).

On the issue of clothing, again... I don't spend alot of time on this unless it's pertinent. In The Flyer, Helen's state of dress and the style of clothing she wears is very important. Hence, the contrast to what "others" are wearing is also very important. Helen is dressed in the early-twentieth century equivalent of thigh high boots and fishnets at the beginning of the story and this has a great deal to do with how she feels about herself, how other people have treated her in the past and what she stands for now.

But do we need to know the exact shade of everyone's dress, suit jacket or the precise temperature in every scene?

Oh "hayal" no.


11:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home