Monday, 21 September 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 9: Planning for Pantsers - backstory

Photograph and cross stitching by Linzé
Planning for pantsers might sound like a contradiction in terms, and to some extent is it. However, without at least some planning the amount of editing that a pantser has to do, is exponentially more than that of a writer that plans her story in detail.
As a fiction pantser, and a non-fiction planner, I have learned that there is a way for a pantser to plan without going into details about the story. I am a pantser because I don't want to know how the story is going to end until I write...the end.

That still leaves a round or two of editing that the planner may not have to do, but it significantly cuts down the number of edits you have to do, if you plan at least some aspects of your story.

Backstory is a tricky thing for pantsers and planners alike. This is especially important when you write a series of books, with either the same lead character or group of characters. You need to keep your story straight so to speak, or your readers will call you out for inconsistencies and boo-boos.
Each and every single writing course will tell you that backstory needs to be woven into the thread of the story. That means you don't start with 10,000 words explaining the main character's childhood abuse or bullying or sexual history in detail before the story starts.
You have to write the story and add a sentence here or a small paragraph there to fill the blanks. Like the thread that holds the tapestry in place for the stitches to be sewn into. In the back. You are aware that it is there, but you don't look at it, nor does it stand out to compete with the image.
Good backstory telling works the same way. Your reader will read it without noticing it. It is there; it provides necessary colour to the story, but it is NOT the story.
If you have this habit of writing 10,000 words before getting into the actual story, then do that, just remember to cut the words and save it another file for you to reference. Or leave it in your first draft, and cut it when you start editing. Just remember to draw those threads into the story when you cut the backstory text.
If you don't do this, then you need to write the backstory anyway. You need to have the history of your main character (at least) done before you write. What made him the man he is today? How did she get to the place/time where the story will start?
This is not a character sketch, but it is history and experiences that your character(s) have had to make them the way your define them in the character sketch.

See you tomorrow!

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