Monday, June 4, 2012

Back Story-All we ask is that you give us your heart

I’m a big advocate for hacking backstory dumps out of your books.
I believe I’ve mentioned this before (ad nauseum).

But when I’ve written about it, I’ve always sort of thought that backstory is like any unnecessary, slow moving part of a book, not more or less important.

However, based on a few experiences with my own writing, with other published authors I’ve read, and some of the critiques I’ve given for writer’s contests I’ve taken on a new theory about backstory.

It isn’t the same as a regular scene that needs to be trimmed or cut outright.
No, in fact, I’ve decided that authors (myself included) are PASSIONATELY IN LOVE with their backstory.

It’s not like cutting a scene where you’ve gone on too long about the clothes or the beautiful sunrise. Or a dialogue scene where the talking went on just a bit too long and needs to be edited down.

TO CUT BACKSTORY IS TO CUT OUT YOUR HEART!!

And that’s what I’m talking about today….cutting out your heart.

http://www.despair.com/ funniest website ever
(suddenly this is no longer about writing, it’s about ancient Aztec human sacrifice, but moving on…)

Why do we cling to our backstory?

I have a theory (you know I was going to have one of those, right?)

I think the backstory we create is … powerful. It’s the utmost creative process. It’s the artistic vision that is the foundation of our whole books. It’s MATERNAL (whether you’re male or female). We created these people. We know them. We love them. We want readers to know and love them so we want to SHARE! They are our children. Our precious babies. (sniffle)

Well fine, acknowledge that then STOP IT!

The backstory-Happily Never After
Your backstory is a love story with a Romeo and Juliet ending. Your backstory is Wuthering Heights. Your backstory is a romance that must DIE!!!

Here is my TWO TIMES THEORY OF BACKSTORY (TTTofB or, a more ruthless acronym 3T-BS). I believe that we all use the backstory we create TWICE in every book.

Why would we create it if we didn’t need it? If it didn’t mean something? So because we create it and it means something, it finds its way into the book where we need it. BUT it also appears, usually way, way too close to the beginning in our beloved (yet so evil) BACKSTORY DUMP. And it is PRECIOUS to us because it's a little story all of it's own

CUT IT OUT! (I mean that-literally).

The first half of the 3T-BS is boring. Whatever action you’ve got going to EXPLODE YOUR STORY, is dragged to a grinding halt every time you talk about: his broken engagement or her unkind father or his struggle to begin a business of making hand crafted sneakers for the mutant-footed or her dreams of crashing through the glass ceiling in the non-Vietnamese pedicurist community.
STOP THAT! It is killing your action-filled, gripping, hook-that-editor, spellbind-that-reader beginning.

But I’ve decided the reason it’s so hard to cut that is because YOU LOVE IT.

We are emotionally invested in it and it hurts, it feels wrong. We’re sure the reader won’t love our characters as much as we do, won’t understand the story on a deep emotional level if we don’t explain, in excruciating detail, all that has come before.
Houston, we have a logo!

Cutting the WRONG half of the 3T-BS doesn’t mean you aren’t using it. I believe that story is in there elsewhere, doled out in the correct form, one sentence or one paragraph at a time.
And writing a backstory dump, then cutting it is NOT time wasted. You need to do it. You need to make all that up so you have it in order in your own head….IT JUST CAN’T BE IN YOUR BOOK, NOT IN A BACKSTORY DUMP.

So, go look at your beginning. Look HARD. Look with brutal eyes. Seek out new 3T-BS and boldly go where no man has gone before…or at least where they never go until they get tired of writing for fun and decide they'd like to get paid for a book.

Click to Buy on Amazon
(for a price so low I'm a little hurt)
There should be no backstory at the beginning, or so close to none, that it doesn’t own an entire sentence.
I would like to insert here a reminder of last month’s very sweet (except maybe for the opossum) “Seeker Mothers” blog post to prove I don’t yell all the time. But today…….yes.

Because I am trying to grab your attention. Because I'm probably talking about YOU. I know I'm talking about ME! Now go read the first three pages of your WIP. Find me the backstory. Recognize it. Confess to it. OWN it---then cut it. Then bring it here to Seekerville so we can enjoy that you have the professionalism to CUT OUT YOUR HEART.

I have been snarly this morning, so by way of apology, I’m giving away a signed copy of Sophie’s Daughter’s Trilogy which is releasing this month. It's a 3 in 1 collection containing Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats and Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

If you’ve already read it (them?), put your name in the drawing anyway. I’ll send it and you can donate it to your church or local library (or leave it on a park bench and run……whatever).




143 comments :

  1. Fun post, Mary! I feel like we're shooting people again :) But we're tough. We can handle it, right?

    I admit it. I love my backstory. I played with using part of it as an introduction, part of it as a flash back, maybe even write an entire chapter of backstory.

    But I love my book too much to kill it.

    So here's my true confession: not a hint (okay, maybe a hint, but not a big one) of backstory until page seven. And then it's only a paragraph.

    You know, Tolkien loved his backstory so much he wrote enough material to fill multiple volumes, now edited and published by his son. But he never intended to publish all that work - he wrote it just for himself.

    Definitely put me in the drawing for the Sophie's Daughters trilogy - I haven't read it yet!

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  2. Hey Jan... Hey Mary...

    Well - apparently I've cut out so much backstory in the sequel that my editor says we need some put in...

    Yes, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Drat.

    Yes please on the drawing. I've read 1 but not the other 2. So sign me up!

    I've been a little lax in bringing sustenance lately so - there's decaf teas and coffee, and just for a few die-hards, a small pot of fully leaded brew. But I can make more.

    And cupcakes. Orange slice, Lemon Peel, German Chocolate, Cookies and Cream AND Coconut. Help yourself!

    Thanks Mary - I like the logo!

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  3. I have a question. It seems simple, but it's not o me. There is obvious backstory. Got that. Recognize it. But what concerns me is part of story structure - the opening in the character's normal world. Sometimes that feels like backstory too. Any thoughts to clarify that?

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  4. I too love backstory. It does make me feel that I know my characters and that the reader needs to understand them from knowing their history too. But, I will...cut out all that pesky backstory in those first few pages. I will...Sigh....
    Jan
    Please enter me in your draw.
    janet_kerr(at)msn.com

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  5. Mary!

    I actually had to ADD a bit of backstory to one MS because judges said to. ;)

    Right now, I'm not cutting backstory.

    I'm 110 words into a historical. Yes. You read that right. A HISTORICAL!!!!

    Thanks to Mellie [yes, the sweet fairy tale adaptation writer] for bullying me into it. /roll eyes/

    I'm sure I'll have some to cut later. Right now I'm feeling the need to shoot someone.

    Fictional.

    A fictional someone.

    Mary tells me this is the best way to do things. Gun shots.

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  6. Mary, I needed this advice and have tried to take it. Like right now, this very minute.

    But I love my back story so much I turned on my tracking option so I could keep it by my side even though it isn't on the page. Sigh.

    Baby steps, baby steps.

    Carol, proud of you! Shooting fictional people will make you feel better.

    Loved all three books, Mary!

    Peace, Julie

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  7. Mary, I would love to win your book. It would help me while I am licking my wounds and saying good-bye to my back story. Part of it anyway. It's true I love it.

    So my question; how soon and how much, is it okay to use?

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  8. Mary! You have no idea how much I'm laughing right now. But I'm proud to say I already cut my backstory out, even though I had managed to work it in SO GOOD that it survived three contests. But not Genesis, LOL.
    It was painful, because how my hero came to be born was just as tragically romantic as stories come, but this was ultimately his story, and I had to let his parents' story go. Maybe once this book is published I'll have a reader contest to see if they can guess / write how Jonathan ended up the illegitimate son of a freed slave and a nobleman. Yeah, that sounds like more fun for everyone. =)

    Carol, a HISTORICAL? YAY!!!

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  9. Mary:

    Au contraire

    What we name things can prejudice our thinking, cloud our vision, and destroy our creativity.

    A dump is where you put garbage. Subtracting garbage from garbage still leaves you with garbage.

    Instead of ‘backstory’ think of it as rewarding the reader with ‘sense-makers’ and ‘forward-thrusters’. Think of it as bits of information that leverage what the reader already knows into a continuous flow of meaningful discoveries. The joy of discovery.

    Would you really be against three pages of backstory (sense-makers and forward-thrusters) if it thrilled the reader? If the reader found it a rewarding reading experience? If the reader couldn’t put it down? If the reader wished there were more of it?

    And what if those three pages of backstory provided the reader with the richness of a well written 300 page novel -- in just 200 pages? Would it still be wrong in these cases because it was called backstory and backstory, according to the purists, must be a per se offense?

    Should we think of it as backstory or as forward-thrusters? Is it not a case of pay me now or pay me much more later?

    I love backstory when it puts me 100 pages into the story by page seven. Quicker orientation leads to greater satisfaction.

    Backstory. No.
    Sense-makers. Forward-thrusters. Reading Enjoyment. Yes.

    Backstory by any other name might well become a far greater thing than is imagined in anyone’s philosophy.

    And maybe not. : )

    Vince

    P.S. Saturday at my local ACFW meeting I won a copy of “Out of Control”. I feel very rewarded.

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  10. Thank you for this great reminder, Mary. At the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference two weeks ago, Steven James told those of us in his writing the unforgettable novel class to not spend time coming up with character bios. He said we'd be too tempted to use all that background info we put so much effort into creating.

    Personally, I've always felt a little guilty because I DON'T do character bios. So I appreciate the double affirmation that I'm not breaking a major fiction writing rule.

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  11. Interesting post. As a reader one think that annoys me is an author who keeps going over the same thing.
    for example telling an issue from a heroines POV then rehashing it each time the POV changes back to her. (ok its not every time but it feels like it is) its unnecessary to and doesn't add to the story.
    I do like back story that tells why they feel like they do or what happened but as you mentioned it doesn't have to be very chapter that she is like it cos her upbringing etc.

    I think this is like the one book I still remember the eye colour of the hero cerulean blue cos every time the heroine saw him she mentioned his cerulean blue eyes. Its not something I take note of and most books if you asked the hero or heroines eye colour etc I would have no Idea but this book (cant remember the title now) but it was mentioned so many times it stuck in my mind.

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  12. **Sigh** okay, fine. I guess because you made me I can force myself to delete that scene from when she was six and sitting in the playground eating a peanut butter sandwich on rye when the school yard bully called her a mean name setting in course her feelings of inferiority that would impact her whole life.

    But I'm telling you, the story is all that much more gripping for the reader know that that day she was wearing her favourite blue gingham frock and brand new Mary Janes! ;)

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  13. I so agree!

    I've just finished reading an advance copy of a book to be released later this month.

    The first 5% (on Kindle) was dedications.

    Then there was backstory (including immortal lines like "why don't you tell me the story again...pretend like you've never told me before"). For five characters. It's the last book in a series (worked out the title yet?), and so the readers ALREADY KNOW the backstory.

    Then, finally, the story started.

    At the 47% mark. And the story finished at 97% so that we could have some thank yous and discussion questions.

    The bit between 47% and 97% was great. The rest? Cut it.

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  14. This is painful. Argh. oh by the way, love the author photo - beautiful! Anyway back to my pain...

    what sticks in my mind is "must make the reader care and empathize with the character right away" ---I've heard this time and time again. How to get the reader to care without any backstory is a tough one, but I think what you are saying is that the reader will care about the character when said character is jumping out of the way of a falling piano.

    oh - is that a coconut cupcake over there? gotta run.

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  15. Coffee's here! And for your imbibing pleasure, a table of sweet creamers and sugars are off to the left... I baked this morning, so we're doing pecan crunch coffee cake...

    Oh. Yum.

    First, I love Sophie's daughters...

    Second, there are ants in my kitchen...

    Third, the May sighting of the opossum analogized to Ruthy WAS NOT NECESSARY NOR WAS IT/SHE CUTE IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM...

    And fourth, I LOVE THAT YOU YELL AT PEOPLE NOW!!!!

    This just makes my day and isn't that what Seekerville is all about, after all???? Making Ruthy's day????

    :)

    Now I will re-examine the current book, WITH MY RED PEN IN HAND... and give Melissa Endlich the book dreams are made of!

    All thanks to Mary Connealy!!!!

    Sign me: Grinning in Upstate while I leave fresh coffee cake for the lot o' youse!

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  16. Kara!!!

    You're cutting the gingham frock and Mary Janes???

    NO!!!! Say it ain't so!!!

    :)

    Put it in later in a conversation with the hero or a friend, and equate it to her situation now...

    CHEAT THE SYSTEM, KARA!!!! And maybe, just maybe, Connealy won't come after you.

    Connealy, I'm jonesin' on the new hair cut, style, color and pic.

    Just lovin' it!

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  17. From the moment we create our first character, the backstory begins. It's no wonder we're in love with our backstory.
    I think I want the reader to love my characters as much as I do, and it's hard.
    Thanks for this painful reminder, I need to cut out backstory.
    I appreciate you sharing this today.
    Please put my name in the drawing. Thanks.
    Jackie L.

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  18. In one of my WIP, I was so obsessed with the heroine's background that I finally had to start a new story about her teen-age years. Over a quick ten thousand words later, I now waffle over which of her stories I like better. And I know nothing about writing YA.

    Wow, Sharyn, no character bios? What a concept.

    Seekers and friends, do any of you write without bios?

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  19. Only Mary would ask us to cut our hearts out. :-)

    Still, you're right, Mary, about the reason we struggle to get rid of backstory dumps. For me, the internal stuff is way easier to write, another reason to love backstory.

    I like to sprinkle hints of my characters' pasts early on. A phrase here and there that adds mystery and gives a sense of what's behind the characters' actions/reactions and hopefully keeps readers turning pages. A sprinkle of salt makes it tasty. Dumping salt on our food makes it unpalatable. A light hand and you get to keep your heart. :-)

    Janet

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  20. Hi Mary,

    Hmmm...are you the Backstory Queen? : )

    I think most of the problem with backstory is as writer's we WANT to TELL the readers why the character is acting this way right up front. But that leaves no "mystery" to make the reader keep turning the pages.

    If you wait to release a line or two of backstory near the end of the book that is much more satisfying.

    Agree-Disagree-Or Off With My Head!

    Rose

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  21. Wow Mary, I have to go put cotton in my ears. All that yelling.

    Okay, the cotton is because I don't want to hear what you are saying.

    I ALWAYS have to cut the info dump.

    But as someone pointed out, the info is there for me. I need to know the character. And as crit partners used to say, I needed to deepen the character.

    Thanks KC for the yummy cupcakes.

    I like Vince's take on story thrusters. Sense makers. Yes, that is what we use backstory for and I love it when it is dribbled in. I just have to remember to do it when I write.

    btw- The trilogy of Sophie's Daughters is outstanding. Mary does a great job with backstory.

    Carol, how exciting you're moving into historical. Me too. And ironic that I'm into Aztec culture right now.

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  22. Good morning, Mary,

    I love, love, love backstory! But I must admit I'm not cutting ANY backstory out of my current WIP! Ha!

    Know why? Because I already did!

    A few months ago, I was convicted (maybe from a blog post here or just learning more about writing in general) that I had too much backstory in the first chapter of my novel, so I cut the one-page backstory dump down to a paragraph. It hurt, but it makes it better (I hope!) plus it cut down on my word count. Which I'm struggling desperately with right now, trying to turn a 125K novel into something closer to 90K-100K. Yikes!

    And I also agree with Mary Curry--it's a fine line between backstory and introducing the reader to your MC's natural world.

    Love to win the trilogy, even though I have two of the three books. I know several people that always receive the gift of books from me... :)

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  23. Death by Backstory. The perfect name for a murder mystery.

    Who dunnit?

    The writer in the kitchen with a knife.

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  24. All you peeps who have to cut your stories back amaze me.

    I write tight, with little layering. I have to add, add, add. Sigh.

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  25. This whole back story confuses me. Really puts me in a tizzy and makes me afraid to write. Seriously afraid.

    And then I go and read a multi-published author and what do I get in the first chapter? Back story. And it's good and I like it because it makes me emotionally connect to the character right away.

    And what is a prologue if not a cleverly disguised piece of back story? But I like prologues. They're intriguing, make me want to read more. Solve the puzzle, find out how it's going to connect with the story.

    I'm not sure how you can write the present and justify a character's actions and reactions without back story to explain the whys and wherefores.

    Maybe I just don't understand the true definition of back story. Whimper, and I'm sure my Speedbo is littered with it. Can't check though because I'm at work and it isn't...but it does have a prologue. :-(

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  26. Oh -- and when is a flashback not a back story? How are they different? I'm reading a book with lots of flashbacks and they really tug at my emotions and the heroines and make us both realize what she had and what she could have again. How could that have been accomplished without back story?

    I'm beyond confused. I'm cafuzzled. Help!

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  27. Mary, thanks for this post. It's such a good reminder to not put backstory in, especially at the beginning. Susan May Warren has mentioned the value of putting in "backstory breadcrumbs," like you said--maybe a sentence. So, that's what I've strived (striven?)for.

    I had a flashback in my opening scene, and one judge actually really liked it. But, it got the axe, and I have the heroine share it in dialogue later with the hero (it's important to the story--just not in the opening scene). I read through my first three pages, as you instructed, and I had only a brief mention (less than a sentence) of a change that had happened over the last couple of years. That's okay, isn't it?

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  28. I have similiar questions as Mary Curry and Kav.

    I get why backstory dumps or those not-so-subtle-tell-all thoughts at the opening are a bad idea.

    But I'm working on a story that I'm struggling w/the opening. Start in the middle of the action/scene everyone says. I'm trying to find that place. It's not so cut and dried as I wished.

    Connie

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  29. Mary,(or anyone else)

    If you watched the movie How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, is the first scenes of that girl coming on too strong w/her boyfriend backstory? It's what gives Kate Hudson the idea for the article.

    I have a similiar type of setup and wonder if I'm starting in the right place.

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  30. Connie, Kav and Mary C. send your chapters to a contest. They will surely let you know if you have too much or need more. One advantage of contests. Or get into a good crit group. Ruthy and Mary both have slashed me to pieces. sob sob But the wip needed it. shhhh don't tell them I admitted that. lol

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  31. Ah, Mary, m'darlin'...

    I see The Yank has brought coffee, but she demeans your sweet name, my petite Nebraska Corn-husker...

    How can I assuage the pain she has caused to one so sweet and fair? Whose books keep me on the edge of my pirate seat, wondering whose lips will mash down on who's next?

    La joie de vivre blossoms with your dulcet voice and gentle cowgirl touch.

    Is there rum, per chance?

    I'm just wondering, of course.

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  32. Kav -

    I'd love to know what you're reading. I have a WIP I did that with - or that was my goal anyway - not sure if I succeeded or not [probably not...]

    Wrote 1329 words on the /gasp/ historical last night. Trying to decide if I want to write more or take a nap... ;)

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  33. Uh-oh ... another infraction. Sigh. I tend to do the back-story thing too much, I suspect, but it's just so darn easy to do during or after a spate of dialogue or action, which is how I usually start my books. For me, it's like setting a table. I don't want to feast on good food unless I have good ambiance first -- the tablecloth, candles, nice china ... BUT, I do agree we need to resist the urge to a backstory dump, because nothing is more irritating to me than trying to enjoy a leisurely meal on a table crowded with china, too many glasses, cups, paraphanalia or utensils. And while we're on the subject, what IS that tiny fork for anyway???

    VINCE SAID: "Backstory. No.
    Sense-makers. Forward-thrusters. Reading Enjoyment. Yes."

    I certainly can see both sides on this one because nothing annoys me more than not knowing the intricacies of what makes a character tick, but I suppose this should be spoon-fed slowly in the beginning rather than a glut here and there, although I'm as guilty as the next guy in holding on to my back story like a blanket to help me feel all warm and cozy about the story.

    Thought-provoking, post, Mare -- thanks!!

    Hugs,
    Julie



    Backstory. No.
    Sense-makers. Forward-thrusters. Reading Enjoyment. Yes.

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  34. Kav, mon petite, my cavalier heart sings praises of back story when used as needed.

    It is in the assault of delicate senses that I deplore an information dump as mon cheri Marie said so succinctly, putting me in mind of other things, unsavory at best.

    Be that as it may, I find my senses sated by long, drawn out old prose as written by the Brontes and Austens and Sisters Grimm...

    My friend Charles wrote great tomes of unleavened back story... But no one would publish him today despite his illusory greatness.

    Ah, darling... Think of today's writings as the American Western. Drop down, drag-out, on the spot fighting... While the gentry of Europe sip their tea.

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  35. Wow that was a great way to explain story dumps, makes perfect sense.

    I learned real quick from the first contest I entered that back story is bad, Bad, BAD.

    I should have known. Stories that hint at something without throwing it out in a giant lump keep me turning the page.

    Here's an example of backstory from my first story ever, along with the judges comment. (one of sixteen times she points out back story in a 15 page entry...)

    Only after Reverend Smyth approached her with a possible solution did she begin to sense hope for the future. The reverend had called her into his office the week before, the same office that had been her father’s. The rich tones and furnishings reminded her of the hours her parents had spent decorating the church, and being in the room filled Rose with an overwhelming feeling of loss. backstory—get rid of all of it—it grinds your story to a halt

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  36. Jack is here commenting on back story? Wow. Does that mean that this post covers a really, really important topic or that he has a crush on Mary?

    Peace, Julie

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  37. Jan, good for you. And you're right about all that backstory needing to exist.
    A good example I just discovered. In my just-turned-in WIP my cowboy hero is fighting to get his father's stolen ranch back from a huge, powerful cattle baron.
    so, I wrote the whole book and, the first go round, I never named the ranch.
    It just never came up. Then in revisions I finally did it. I named it. Once I named it I found myself using that name a lot. Then on the next round of revisions going back to the beginning of the book, I realized the hero makes references to his ranch a LOT, I started mixing in S Bar S for the word ranch or 'my ranch'. The thing is, I didn't use that name because I DIDN'T KNOW IT. I haven't invented it. So once you invent all that backstory, it just works it's way into the book so easily. But not in a big DUMP. So you need to write it. Once you've written it, you'll use it.

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  38. KC it's true. You can go too far cutting backstory. I've had editors especially on books #2 and #3 say, "You need to do a really fast review of the earlier book somewhere here because you're assuming everyone reading this book has read that one."
    So I know there is a limit to how much backstory you can cut.

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  39. Mary Curry, I know you can have a fake backstory dump, hide it in dialogue for example. That is also wrong. While you're doing this world creating you're not moving your story forward. CUT IT!

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  40. Janet Kerr....it's the right thing to do. Does it help to recognize that we love that backstory? Do you think that's right? Are we emotionally invested in it, in a way we aren't to other slow spots in our books?

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  41. Carol, shooting someone is an excellent way to start a historical. I can't believe you're 100 pages in and haven't done it yet.
    :)

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  42. The thing it, Julie, you need to TRUST yourself that your backstory is in there elsewhere.
    And if you KNOW your backstory then it IS in there somewhere.
    And btw, I'd like to formally apologize to the mutant-footed community for my earlier insensitivity.

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  43. 100 words, Mary dear. Not pages.

    Am almost 1400 in now. There will be shotguns soon.

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  44. Mary Cline...and I'm not kidding here. A half sentence a page for the first full chapter. Probably the first THREE chapters. At most a paragraph a page.
    Your backstory needs to come in the form of sentence tags after dialogue.

    Sally goes flying over a cliff and she thinks, 'I should've never left Texas.' That's it. Now you know Sally left Texas.

    If you try and keep it that low, it'll still be more than a half sentence a page--because we just can't control ourselves, but it needs to be drizzled in, not dumped.

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  45. But Nancy, you can put that in your book elsewhere. Do it, weave that in. Have a more modest (two paragraph) backstory dump about 1/2 way through the book. It's just that at the beginning, this just KILLS your opening. Kills it dead in it's tracks. You're trying to grip an editor. your story needs to MOVE. It needs to EXPLODE. You can't stop the explosion for the heroine to muse on what's brought her to this point.
    You can't have her think for three paragraphs about how her cheating fiance left her at the altar and then she lost her job when her sexually harrassing boss fired her for being ... ahem ... not a team player.
    No, that's not the beginning. Your explosion freezes in mid-kaboom. And the editor lays your manuscript aside without a moments hesitation.

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  46. Vince, I just read a contest entry that was so, so, so well written. I shudder when I type this but my advice to that extremely talented author, cut the whole 35 pages you just sent me. it's ALL backstory. Brilliantly done but your STORY hasn't started. The hero and heroine hadn't met yet, the hero hadn't been introduced yet. I know because of the synopsis. Not all those pages into a book entered into the romance category. And that's tragic because this author is talented, she was writing a completely engaging story and acting it out, not an obvious backstory dump and I told her that I thought she was ready to be published, and I apologized for scores that were going to put her out of contention for the contest.
    But it all has to go. We need to get to the story.

    I'm sorry.

    Wait, I'll tell you another story, which I believe I've told before.

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  47. I entered The Husband Tree into a contest and I got a critique from a published author and she said, "Your story doesn't start until page 19."
    Wow, the submission was 25 pages.
    The judge said, "This is very pleasant reading, well written, charming, but it's all backstory. Cut it."

    I tried. I really tried but I just couldn't handle it. I ultimately set the book aside and wrote something else and much later, YEARS later, I went back to The Husband Tree and knowing more than I'd known before, I realized that the first six pages were all BACKSTORY. Or maybe five of the first six pages.
    I just didn't know enough when I first wrote it to recognize that.
    It all had to go.

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  48. PS Vince, congratulations on the win.
    And I'm sorry, but go cut the heart out of that beginning. DO IT!!!!

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  49. Thanks Mary. The back story in my head often stays there. That means I get questions from critique-partners like, 'Where did this come from?' And I tell them the back story and they respond, 'Well, if you don't tell us that, how are we supposed to know it?' Scary, what goes on inside my head... ;)

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  50. ~sharyn, I usually keep a document saved called INFO and the book's title. When I make something up about the character, like eye color, where he grew up, her parents names, his ranch's name....
    I type that into the document because I forget it. Have I referred to his eye color before???? Stuff like that.
    And I've been laying it out lately like Myra's excel spread sheet character chart.
    So it's tidy and handy.
    But I don't do the extended bio either, unless, for example, how her parents died is important to the story. If they died of scarlet fever and she survived it and now she's confronted with someone who's got it but she's immune and can be the one to nurse them...something like that.

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  51. Ausjenny, I'm imagining my hero thinking the heroine has cerulean blue eyes. Not a cowboy way to think. :) Great example though of how repetition bogs the story down. Also, I like to believe in the intelligence of my readers. I don't need to say it over and over. They got it the first time.
    Clearly they're brilliant if they've chosen to read my book, right????? :)

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  52. Okay, Mary, I have turned my tracking feature off, deleted the excess, but am now worried I am making my dialogue back story.

    More slash and burn.


    Thanks, Julie

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  53. Kara, you brave girl! The thing is, you can probably put that in there somewhere. You can use it, but later! LATER!!! And then just that one small scene. Two paragraphs. Not a page. Do it in chapter eighteen.

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  54. Lola I read a book not long ago by a truly famous author. You'd absolutely know her. Not Christian fiction and that book started on chapter 97.
    I'M NOT KIDDING. It finally started to MOVE.
    I wanted to write to her and say SHAME ON YOU! YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS!

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  55. Granted, they were short chapters.

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  56. Debra, to make a reader like your character, have someone in the book like him/her.
    That's it.
    Give her a loyal friend. Or a dog.
    To make a character likeable have someone like her. Because that 'liking' will reveal why she is liked.
    No friend is going to come up to your prickly heroine and have an exchange with her while the heroine is being disgusting and unpleasant. The exchange with a friend will reveal her likeable side. This can also be done briefly.
    Right before she falls over the cliff or the bank explodes in her face.

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  57. Hi Mary,

    I looked at my first three pages and didn't find any back story unless you would say the wanted advertisement for a mail-order-bride is back story.

    I do admit though, that it's hard to separate an author from his or her back story after we work and slave over developing our characters.

    Great food for thought though.

    Blessings,
    Jodie Wolfe

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  58. Jackie, admitting we have a problem is the first step to solving it. There are twelve steps I believe. :)

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  59. CaraG, I read a book once that jumped from the modern day to the past in the heroine's life. The real trouble for me was, the heroine's teen past was more gripping than the modern story. And that diminished the whole book. good luck picking what to do.

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  60. Ah, Janet, well put. SALT in the backstory, it gives your book flavor, but too much salt and all your readers will die of high blood pressure.
    We can't have that.

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  61. Rose that's such a smart way to put it. The MYSTERY of why she's acting the way she is, is more compelling than the truth. Just because it is a mystery. Later, when the truth comes out, the reader will be dying to know. It'll be this big pay off moment, utterly pleasant.

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  62. Sandra, so the Aztec human sacrifice temple is really doing it for you, then? :)
    Glad I could help....eerie coincidence.

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  63. Stephanie HI! Stephanie and Rose and I and a great group of others went on a road trip on Saturday.
    I reflect upon it now and I'm pretty sure that I was boring to everyone trapped in the car with me.
    I talked for way to long about Homesteading and the Civil War.

    I apologize.

    Good for you cutting that backstory, Stephanie, just remember it is in there somewhere else. I just KNOW IT IS!

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  64. Tina, we should create a Seekerville version of Clue. Why don't you get on that in your spare time.
    OR no, better yet Seeker-opoly.
    I want to own the railroads.

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  65. Kav, I will say this, when you're dealing with a multi-pubbed author, the rules are different for her...in some ways.
    I've read really big star authors and thought, "I'd never read on if I didn't trust you to deliver a good story." because they load it with all sorts of 'errors'. I just read one that the whole first chapter was a backstory dump told in the heroine's head, musing about all that had come before.

    Yes, I read on because I trust this author, but an editor buying a new author? No way would they bite.

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  66. Hi Mary:

    Here’s all the backstory in the first thirteen pages of my WIP.

    “Why be single with no dependents if you can’t take a few wild chances?” Page 2

    “He could make it. It wasn’t that far a jump. No big deal. Wind filled his mouth as he smiled in defiance. He was eighteen again. Who wanted to be a thirty-six year old Army Captain anyway? Just don’t get killed.” Page 4.

    He could shoot the tail lights out of that car from up here. When stressed Eric sometimes reverted back to his days as a Special Forces sniper. Was there any power on earth greater than determining life and death with your trigger finger?

    I was God back in those days."

    Page 13


    While I love well written, forward thrusting, story accelerating, backstory, I never claimed I could write it!

    BTW: I just noticed the book I won was “In Too Deep”, the one I have not read yet! Happy Dance!!!

    Actually I think the covers are too much alike in this series. I like how they did Sophie’s Daughters with each cover having a visual anchor: a medical bag, a rope and a rifle. I know right away which book is which with one look. I don’t even have to read the titles.

    Vince

    P.S. Is it more important to move the story or move the reader?

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  67. Kav, the thing is, you do need your backstory and it does need to be in the book, just not up front. And not in an unbroken internal musing three page backstory dump. But all the troubles that have brought the hero and heroine to this point do need to come out, later, when they are revealing themselves emotionally to each other.

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  68. JEANNE, good for you. And the back flash isn't inherently evil, it just needs to bide it's time and pop up later, usually much later. It grinds the action of your explosive beginning to a dead halt.

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  69. CONNIE, knowing where to start a story is always a struggle adn we don't always get it right the first time. If you're writing a romance, you need to get the hero and heroine together fast. If you're targeting Love Inspired you need to get them together by probably page three. So use that as your guide. Does your beginning get them together in a 'cute meet' type of way.
    And Sally McClellen falling off a cliff and dangling from a tree branch just out of reach of the hero, who then has to climb down out of the tree he's sitting in to save her is ... well ... not CUTE exactly--a little to life-and-death for cute. But definitely memorable.

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  70. Jack! I thought of you this weekend. My writer friends and I were on the deck of a ship, a replica of the ship taken by Lewis and Clark. Despite the obviously slender connection between pirates and Lewis and Clark (that connections being a boat) someone did say, "Arg, mateys." Who can resist? You are always close in our thoughts, Jack.

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  71. Julie, Vince is right in that the backstory can be sense-makers. forward-thrusters (whatever those are)
    But it needs to be done RIGHT.
    And it's so so so easy to do wrong.

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  72. Wow, Jamie....uh....that sounds exactly like something I'd say.

    I apologize. At the same time of course, I'm right.

    But I can be an insensitive dolt sometimes, too.

    I have written testimony on file with the county attorney saying that.

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  73. Julie, any day Jack is here is a good day.

    Although he usually shows up when he thinks we need help. I wonder what it means???????????

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  74. Oops, 100 words, not pages. Okay, totally different. Now at 1400...yes, the gunfire for sure. :) Isn't being a writer fun...and weird?

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  75. Mary, great thought-provoking post. I know enough not to put in backstory, but I'd love to! My editor made me cut mine, but she also had me add a prologue which was in effect backstory. I guess you only include it if it's absolutely necessary.

    I write the story the way I see it and then I edit and that means cutting whatever doesn't advance the story--at least in the first few chapters.

    Gone with the Wind had a lot of backstory and I didn't mind a bit!

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  76. Lyndee, yes inside the head of a writer is a scary place.

    To fix something like that needs tweaking not huge backstory dumps, but your critique partners not getting it tells you it's been cut too close, so open the flood gates just a trickle and let a bit more backstory in.

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  77. Jodie, good for you. You brave, brave girl.
    We do love our backstory, don't we?

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  78. I sounds more like you than you know, but whoever she was/is she was the nice judge that gave me a good score and lots of helpful advice ;)

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  79. I've always been SO proud of the fact that I don't do "backstory dumps", but try and drop "breadcrumbs" along the way.

    THEN I got my Genesis scores back. My opening took too long and the judges thought the opening was too much setting up or...GULP

    Backstory.

    Noooooooooooooooooooo!!

    Fine. I'll own it. And try to decide what to keep and what to cut.

    It'll make it BETTER. I KNOW it will. Doesn't make my heart hurt less.

    :(

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  80. Boy I needed this smack in the head today, Mary!

    Got my feedback from the Genesis judges yesterday and I got a few "Needs more of a hook" comments - which translated means "too much backstory". Maybe I'll try starting with a shooting!! LOL.

    Wasn't ready to hear it before that I probably have to cut out the whole first chapter. Sigh.

    Thanks for the smack! And the yelling! Now to just figure out how to start the story. AGAIN! Grrr.

    Yay, Carol! An Historical. What year and setting? I just finished my second historical and am now wavering on which genre I should stick to. Have fun! Historicals are fun to write.

    Off to the dentist soon (joy oh joy).

    Have a great Monday everyone!

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  81. Casey,

    Your comment came in just while I was commenting.

    We can start the 'bummed by Genesis' club today, okay? Last night I was in a right snit about the whole thing. Trying to get back on track today!

    Hope you are too!

    Sue

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  82. Wow, Captain Jack is in our midst. Could it be that he has come to kidnap all our back stories and hold them hostage on the island so he isn't so lonely?

    Okay -- maybe I'm beginning to get this. Is the definition of a back story when it's all in the hero/heroine's mind? Full of phrases like " it had been..." kind of all past tense? Passive? Because the books I've read with back story in them (and liked) had the back story as present tense. And it was active. Wish I was home and had my books with me so I could give some examples. As a reader, I knew we'd jumped out of time, but the back story wasn't musings it was action. Does that make sense?

    Carol: the book I'm reading is Annie's Truth by Beth Shriver -- the one with the flash backs. Again they are written as if they are happening now. We know they are flashbacks because the passages are in italics, and the content of course. It's a neat technique that's really made me sympathetic to Annie.

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  83. Hey, Mary! This is great. I really needed this today!!! I am editing and trying to figure out how much of the hero's backstory to include at the beginning. Definitely need to go back and cut some! Thanks for the stern voice and painful reminder to cut out my heart!!!

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  84. Wow, Carol! You're not supposed to write the entire book in 24 hours! You'll make the rest of us look bad!!!

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  85. Carol, I thought you'd written 100 pages of your historical last night. 1400 words is still really good. ;-)

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  86. Whoah! Weird... I thought of course there is... Went to find it and couldn't

    I went through the 3 pages over and over, convincing myself every line was needed.

    THEN I realized:

    Every Tuesday for months now, he’d picked up the next installment in a series that had turned the city on its ear. It seemed Parlay had some personal vendetta against shady deals, especially the kind that hurt the most vulnerable populations of the city.


    It was already in there, in a few words, in other places.

    Creepy.

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  87. Oh, Julie, that's brilliant.

    I keep getting the main characters back story confused when it gets to parents, not sure why.

    Maybe this is called PLOTTING ON PAPER.

    I should try your way. Sounds better to a pantser like me.

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  88. Let me share some backstory with ye's.

    I've got a ship, The Black Pearl. I've fought tooth 'n' nail for her, and I've tricked a few blokes as well.

    But I ain't no women's fiction tra lee, tra la, and t'ain't a woman abounds who'd think such lookin' at me...

    So do ye want to ponder what I've done???

    Or what I might do?

    Savvy?

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  89. Tina, where is Tina?

    I don't think I have my ten pages I sent to Seekerville for the critique way back in the way back of 2010.

    Now THAT'S a good example of backstory dump. With a truck.

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  90. Mary, you always crack me up! And manage to be wise and insightful at the same time!

    Yep, exactly why I enjoy your books so much!

    Backstory. I'm struggle with keeping too much of it out in the book I'm working on right now. That's because this is a SEQUEL. And if people haven't read the first book, or if it turns out to be 6 months or a year before they get around to this one, THEY WON'T KNOW (or won't remember) WHAT'S GOING ON!

    So, Mary, you and Julie are the resident pros on continuing sagas with recurring characters. What's your secret???

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  91. Jamie, well, if it was the nice judge then it's definitely me. But if it is an evil judge then it is someone else (Ruthy).

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  92. Sorry Casey but owning it, going back to work, that is the hallmark of a successful author. Yes it hurts but you've got to learn, persevere, take the hits, then pick yourself up and get back to work.

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  93. Susan and everyone getting back their judges comments...I know they can really cut deep.
    But give yourself 24 hours to whine and moan and kvetch and suck your thumb, then shake it off, learn what you can from it...not all judges comments are correct, but mostly there is something to learn, even if they challenge you and you end up thinking, "Nope, my way is better." You have at least considered it, done it your way for a reason you can defend.

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  94. Mary, forget the salt. You raise your readers' blood pressure with action.

    Janet

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  95. KAV, the most blatant abuse in backstory is the book that begins with a phone call and the heroine realizes her aunt-mother-exhusband has died, then she gets in her car to drive home or where ever the funeral is gonig to be and we get about ten pages of her thinking of all her regrets, the reason her marriage failed, the reason she was estranged from her mother, the reason she could now cling to the wonderful phone call to her aunt just last weekend.

    This type of beginning is, not to belabor the point or nuthin', ALWAYS WRONG.

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  96. Gee, Melanie, when you say it, it sounds so WRONG to cut out your heart.

    Hmmmmm.........

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  97. Good for you, Virginia. No backstory. I think I'll go cut some backstory from my own work. I love my backstory, too, you know. It's hard to let it go.

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  98. backstory is sneaky. :) it is bosom buddies with that rascally pirate Jack

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  99. I do know that I like to write a series as fast as I can, one after the other, because I so often discover things in the second book that I need to refer to in the first. But of course you can't do that, weave that into the first book, if it's already in print. So maybe that's the secret, speed writing.
    I think of J.K. Rowling and how all those books were woven together to intricately. I think that's the reason kids read them over and over and over, because you could keep learning more going deeper into the story.

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  100. Vince said: Is it more important to move the story or the reader?

    Good question. Don't you think we can do both? I feel bad when someone is getting shot down, either with a bullet or a cruel tongue.

    Though giving the characters a breather is a great place to tug at readers heartstrings. Lots to think about.

    Janet

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  101. " ...a signed copy of Sophie’s Daughter’s Trilogy which is releasing this month. It's a 3 in 1 collection containing Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats and Sharpshooter in Petticoats"

    Oh, enter me, please to win a signed copy of Sophie's Daughter's Trilogy! Yippee!! I would love to win!!
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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  102. Mary, that and the fact the judge identified themselves as a multi-published award winning historical romance author. (I really think it might have been you - how cool is that... I'm gonna frame that baby :) )

    I'm learning as I read that when back story is sprinkled throughout the story it adds interest without slowing it down.

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  103. Lovin' all the things I'm learning today. I'm sneaking peaks at the new comments while at work. (Slow day. I've already swept the sidewalk and front steps.)

    I'll have to check my current WIP for backstory dump when I get home. I don't think I've done it in the first couple of chapters, but it may have snuck in there more than it should.

    Something must be wrong with me, though, 'cause I'm stuck on the shootin' people part. Makes me want to do some more of it. Of course, I'll keep it on paper so I don't wind up on the front of the paper. :-)

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  104. Sue -

    SW of Springfield, MO. Fictional town where my real town is, I think. Late 1800s - 70s or 80s, not really sure exactly yet. If we're in town, I'll go to the historical society museum this weekend. Did name the owners of the general store after the guy who owned the first general store in this town...

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  105. What? That didn't qualify as backstory? Even if it was in there twice?

    I'm confused. I cut out a part of my heart and now I want it back.

    *blank face*

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  106. Ah Susan, you and me together! ;-)

    I will say, while it stings, I was wondering if they might say something along the lines that they did, so I guess that REALLY tells me something, doesn't it? ;)

    Mary, yep, yep and yep. I can ONLY get better from here. Hopefully.

    ;)

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  107. Lane Hill House (btw, best name EVER!) you're in the drawing and God bless you for your enthusiasm. LOL

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  108. Jamie, did the author also identify herself as a dork who might not know what she's talking about. I usually try and work that in somewhere.

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  109. LOL...at myself! I've spent the last three days trying to uncover my new heroine's backstory. Now you tell me I don't need it.

    But I've got to know why Sylvia, who turned into Sophie and who now is being called Stephanie, doesn't want to come back to Freemont, GA.

    You did say that backstory is okay for the author to know as long as it's not shoved down the reader's throat in the beginning of the book. Rather the past should be layered in later in the book. Did I get that right?

    BTW, show of hands from everyone who likes the name Stephanie for a heroine?

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  110. Waving to Captain Jack!

    A lover of the classics. Who knew?

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  111. Nope, no dorkiness. I guess we'll never know for sure. Now if she'd told me to shoot the hero by the end of the first chapter there'd be no doubt!

    Although it's been over a year since I looked at the file and when I read today's blog the first thing that came to mind was "the back story judge"

    Either way she did her job well - the last time I had a professional critique done (By an awesome seekervillager) there was no mention of back story needing to be taken out.

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  112. Stephanie's a great name Debby. At least each name change was a new one. I keep flipping back and forth on my hero's name. Owen or Wesley?

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  113. Hey everyone! I'm a long time lurker, new commenter. I'm on the final edit of my novel, which has been through eight (yes, you read that right) rewrites in the past year. Anyway, in one part of it, I realized that I had a backstory dump, although it was at least a third of the way in. So I got rid of it. For one thing, if someone's in pain, and has kept all this in for years, they're not going to just blurt it out to you. So instead, I sprinkled it. But there isn't nearly the depth of backstory I came up with in there. Mostly because it's a bit gruesome, and my MC needs to deal with it himself.
    *gets off soapbox*

    I also would like my name put in for the Sophie's Daughters Trilogy. It sounds fun! :)

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  114. Hi Becki, thanks for stopping in to comment. With anything in writing it's a balancing act. How much do you put in. When is it too much, when have you not told enough. It sounds like you're finding the middle ground and that's not easy.
    Your name is in the drawing.
    And, because I'm proud of you for jumping in, I'm now officially giving away two copies of Sophie's Daughters Trilogy and one of them goes to you.
    Check back for the weekend edition for details.

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  115. Yeah - you're talking about me. I'm in love with my backstory. But I took the stab in my heart and cut it to shreds. Now it only shows up here and there throughout the book. I'll go down heartbroken but readers - and Mary - will be happy. Actually Mary, I think I'd even enjoy backstory if you wrote it (which you don't)

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  116. Hi Debby:

    One of my favorite heroines is Stephanie Plum. Of course, it depends on how old she is and what her personality is like.

    If you like “S” names, I don’t think I’ve seen these names in a long while:

    Savanna -- (without the ‘h’) Nickname: Vanna
    Seraphina -- (highest angel) Nickname: Fina

    Vince

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  117. Ah, ladies, a discussion such as this thrusts me back a century or more, to the times of simple foods, simple ships and corsetted women.

    The person or persons who invented "T" shirts for women should be hung and quartered.

    Deb, m'love, m'darlin' wench, what a fine day to see you! As I'm mulling the secrets of life, dearheart, be there any ye'd like to share with me? In private?

    With rum?

    As I'm walkin' the streets of downtown Manhattan today, I'm noting a distinct lack of watering holes for a gentleman of my caliber. This is messing with my pirate theory that docking ships equates well-stocked watering holes.

    I am much disappointed.

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  118. But Mary... I like my backstory. why should i have to cut it? :-)

    Actually, I understand completely what you've been yelling or typing in all caps about. the whole 3T BS and all that jazz. You see, while editing When Shadows Fall... I cut (I really did) a part of the story that was in there twice, once in the beginning of the story and then as you worked through the story. I pert had heart failure to do so, but I cut it.

    Can I just say Ouch? That smarted something fierce. I guess your right, I really wanted people to touch the heart of what I was trying to say.

    They run ads over and over, and play songs over and over so people get them. Why couldn't I do it in a story?

    But took the old backspace hatchet to my words and snipped away.

    I suppose the story is practically perfect in every way now.

    ;-)

    You can put me in the drawing for the trilogy. Which I have already read and loved, and I will certainly give it away as a gift...

    blessings

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  119. Did I mention I'd love to win the trilogy?

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  120. I once heard someone explain backstory either on the ACFW loop or at conference by saying to picture your backstory as a large piece of glass. All your character's history is there, everything that makes them who they are, all their experiences. Now, take that piece of glass and throw it on the ground. Pick up a hammer (after putting on safety goggles!!) and crunch it all up. NOW pick up 3-4 tiny slivers of glass and insert them into your manuscript. That's it.

    I don't know why, but that helped me so much with my backstory dumps. They don't need the whole piece of glass (it's heavy, it'll weight down the whole book), but they can have a couple slivers and that's all they need.

    Easier said than done though, right? I had to chop ALL backstory out of the piece I turned into my editor, and man alive, that was painful. I kept trying to keep little snatches here and there thinking...but the reader MUST see this or they just won't get it. Needless to say, all of it went, even those precious bits, and know what? The readers all get it without those sections. Now I have them saved in a file and can lovingly visit them myself. :)


    Side note: I'd love to win the trilogy. Carol keeps going on and on about the Petticoat series and now I must read it!!

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  121. jesskeller, a sliver or four will also stick, and people care about slivers. A piece of glass, on the other hand, is usually ignored. :) That's a REALLY good analogy!

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  122. Okay ... sure ... scare me to death. I thought I'd eliminated all but two sentences of backstory in the first chapter. Now I'm not sure. Now I'm afraid the entire story is backstory. Or maybe the backstory is actually backstory for another story's backstory.

    Sigh.

    I'm thinking I'll read the first chapter in reverse ... might be able to spot backstory that way?

    My WIP will be better for this. I know this because I have enjoyed every book of Mary's I have read. My WIP will be better.

    Parting with backstory is so sad. So very, very sad ...


    Nancy C

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  123. I haven't read any of these books, but I've read many good things about them. love to win this 3-in-1 book thanks

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

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  124. I like the shattered glass image jesskeller. The point is that it is IN THERE. Please,I would never ask you to cut out your heart. Instead I'm asking you to hack it into tiny sections....
    okay, this is turning gristly. Yeesh.

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  125. Nancy C, maybe you've done it all right. The one thing I know about anythign I want to cut, I almost always have to go through it several times, same goes when I want to add, emotion, comedy, action, I have to revise multiple times. So if you've cut the backstory and now you find more backstory, don't feel bad, your backstory's backstory is back.

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  126. Becki Badger I like the slivers causing pain, sticking with you. NOTICABLE!
    Excellent point (a broken glass pun that could not be cut--ack another one!)

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  127. Hi Apple Blossom. You're name's in the drawing! :)

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  128. >> Mary Connealy wrote: So if you've cut the backstory and now you find more backstory, don't feel bad, your backstory's backstory is back.<<


    Heaven help me, I think I understand that :-)

    Thanks for a strong, motivating post today, Mary.

    Nancy C

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  129. Savanna! Thanks, Vince. I like it.

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  130. Becki, glad you came out of lurker mode. Good things happen when you post a comment...like winning Mary's book. YAY, you! YAY, Mary!

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  131. Mary...loved this post! Not only was I grinning at your humor, but I kept thinking...she is SO right! I only have one WIP...I've been a little preoccupied lately...but I was so proud of my prologue that I wrote, revised multiple times, and had critiqued. I even had some compliments on it. Then I entered a contest and one of the judges wrote that I should take out my prologue all-together. At first I was like, "what?! Not my precious prologue! It explains the story and it's really exciting!" Well, after some thought and consulting another writer friend, I realized that I could insert parts of this prologue later in the story and not lay it all out there in the beginning. Might make it a little more exciting later in the book. Anyway, we'll see. I gotta get back in the writing saddle.
    I'd love a chance to win your books...I haven't read any of those three..and I want to! Thanks for the post! *Sidenote: I'm asking for prayers for two of my littles...had surgeries today on tonsils/adenoids and ear tubes put in! It's been a busy day! Blessings~
    Stacey
    travelingstacey(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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  132. So Mary, is this an element of writing you feel strongly about??

    LOL!

    Okay, I get it. NO BACKSTORY.

    Well, not until it needs to surface...and then distribute in small bites...very small bites...think starvation diet.

    Got it.

    <>

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  133. In the first contest I ever finaled in, my entry was the first ten pages of the manuscript that is now with two publishers.

    However, those opening ten pages were removed and replaced with something new. Those ten pages now show up in snippets throughout the book.

    The question I have though is...what's the different between backstory where the hero and heroine don't meet and a prologue where the hero and heroine don't meet.

    Also, I already have all three of the Sophie's daughters books (and I still have a crush on Mandy). However, if I win the book, I will make it a prize at our monthly writer's group meeting. (Proceeds go to adult literacy.)

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  134. You were on a mission today.

    I would love to read the SOPHIE'S DAUGHTER'S TRILOGY thank you.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  135. At this point on my wip I have more back story than actual story. I've cut out two prologues to date (both on Seeker advice). And according to Carol, who recently read the first few pages of my 3rd (or is it 4th?) attempt, I still have too much back story to start off.

    I tend to think my reader needs to know all the pertinent information right off the bat. I'm learning that just isn't so.

    Mary~ It's encouraging that you say "Go ahead and put it in. Just be ready to cut it out later."

    Your post makes me think of salt in a recipe. When something is salted just right, you don't notice the salt itself, but the whole dish tastes better because of it.

    I'd love to win Sophie's Daughters.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

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  136. if only i was at the point in my writing to get to cut out backstory... *sigh* it's not good when my toddler waves the axle to his now dismantled tricycle and says "magic wand take mama's 'puter AWAY!"
    i am avidly reading all Seekerville advice on writing and hopefully won't have to slice and dice my heart too much as i work on my WIPs.

    would LOVE to win the 3 in 1 book, Miss Mary... please put me in the drawing.

    and thanks for being so passionate about making us better writers.

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  137. So helpful..so painful. :)

    I wasn't going to enter because I do own these books (in the middle of the second one, actually, and I was thinking the whole time I was reading this post of how, yes, there's little distracting backstory in these books, which is why I can't put them down), but I'll do a giveaway on my blog if I win. :) That should work.

    biblioprincess15 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  138. Have not read the book but sounds awesome!Love to win it!!

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  139. Never heard it put this way. Is this why the backstory flows so easily? Because it's heart on a page? Like the idea of there being two instances. Just have to cut the right one.

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  140. I agree! I always let myself write backstory into the first few chapters, knowing good and well I need to get it out of my system, but when I find the ways to naturally weave in a little here and a little there, I can cut loose those first draft opening scenes. Fix it on rewrite, but writing it in the first place is useful.

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  141. Great post! You know what I hate when it comes to backstory? When an author keeps hinting at the backstory but doesn't tell you the whole story until a certain point in the book. It's not that I want it spelled out at the beginning, but they refer to it all dramatically several times. I just want to know what it is! LOL!

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  142. I deleted the backstory and then found that I had refered to it several times in the story. Talk about rewrite. Please put me in the drawing for Sophie's Daughters trilogy. Thank you. alexaharrelson@live.com

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