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Old 04-01-2016, 01:30 AM   #1
Rollinbones is offline
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Bogging down in back story

Hello esteemed peers, I hope to borrow some of your authoritative experience to help me through a gate of sorts.

I'm scribbling a thing at the moment and have got to a point where I feel im bogging down into the back story. My sidekick is explaining to the main character the history of their circumstances, giving meaning and hopefully credence to some of the fantastic constructs I'm having them battle.

I've researched a lot of the associated factual history and hope to link it loosely to my fiction to give a loose skeleton of fact to hang my bullshit on. At present the sidekick has the history in the forms of personal experience and books to present to the main character.

I feel it bloating and becoming too much waffle for the characters to believably discuss.

Can you suggest devices or methods of presenting this back story which don't involve three pages of droll dialogue in what is loosely an action/smut piece.

I would gladly read examples you could direct me toward where authors have employed successful tactics.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Old 04-01-2016, 02:48 AM   #2
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Cut to the action and the smut, get more written; and then circle back around to the back story if you need to it and only as required.

It's a bit like cane toads - we don't give a fuck how far west they have got, nor why they got there, the point is to line them up with the wheels and run them down! It's a poor analogy, but you get my drift. Write about running them down.

At least your oz bs filter has kicked in early!

Keep writing, then edit, is my advice. Also, this "how do I handle back story" theme pops up a bit on AH - trawl through the thread history and I think you'll find previous discussions. Someone who has a better memory than I do might help....

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Old 04-01-2016, 03:21 AM   #3
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Flashbacks and work in one piece at a time?
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To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain--This Life flies:
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once is blown for ever dies.

Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:48 AM   #4
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As usual, it depends. How much background is necessary for the story to make sense? I'll often start with a basic setting and action, then sketch in backstory as needed, and then hit more action, as in A Taste of Lemonade. Sometimes a longer pre-action setup is needed, as in The Book of Ruth, or Make Me Scream! where the setup is absolutely required. Sometimes I weave the backstory into the narrative, bits and pieces here and there, and with a major reveal, as in That's My Girl, where the discovery of the backstory is the punchline. Sometimes no backstory is needed, as in A Fall of Stardust. It depends.
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Old 04-01-2016, 04:47 AM   #5
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Ah, limoncello... I make that myself from time to time.

Thankyou for those examples Hypoxia, I'm tending more towards the style of thing you executed in The Book of Ruth, with a chunk of back story in a timely place. Then I'll probably re-visit as required then as Electricblue and Hardrom suggest.

I'm quite thankful for that bs filter mate, and I think for now i'll do as you say and circle back as necessary. Got to preserve momentum before i convince myself its gone to shit and throw it in the bin.

Cheers people. I think I just needed to attention whore and soak up some encouragement... Now I need to pull my finger out and fuck the cactus.

If you have to fuck a cactus then there's no use standing around whinging about the pricks, just bend the cactus over, fuck it and you can bitch and moan as you pull them out later.
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Old 04-01-2016, 05:19 AM   #6
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Yes, talking head exposition should be kept short. Break it up and spread it out if you can, if not try a flashback instead.

I once did this by temporarily dropping from a third person perspective to a first person perspective. Thus allowing me to ignore the setting of the present-day conversation and focus on the story that the one character was relating to the other. Makes quotes and such a lot cleaner.
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Old 04-01-2016, 06:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Rollinbones View Post
Can you suggest devices or methods of presenting this back story which don't involve three pages of droll dialogue in what is loosely an action/smut piece.
Hypoxia is on the right track; it all depends on the story when, where, what and how you present backstory.

My personal preference is to spread backstory into driblets throughout the story as much as possible. Let your reader learn about your characters the same way they learn about any real-life acquaintance.

One thing to consider is that you can fill in a lot of backstory by implication; don't underestimate your readers ability to infer things from just a few hints/data points. You don't need to present a full case history to your readers unless there is something that is relevant to "current events" in your story.
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Old 04-01-2016, 09:09 AM   #8
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Two possibilities come to mind:

1) Break it up into "reveals" let slip during a series of conversations. If you're really writing adventure/smut, characters are reacting to the way they are and they don't always care why they are that way; the past is not very important. Where it matters, bring up historcal observations in conversation, but don't bother to give the complete backstory. My "Why I Love My Job" is rooted in back story that mostly only glints around the edges, until the last chapter, if you want an example.

2) It's possible you're writing the wrong story. Maybe the backstory is everything - you're fascinated by it, it has things you want to say, the characters are starting to get dwarfed by it. Maybe your story is really a longer story, part set in the past (why expound when you can describe?), part now. I just did this in my (non-erotic) series "Chosen", essentially a mystery story involving a 700 year old love affair that suddenly matters in the present. It's also an adventure story (not particularly smutty), you might want a look.
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Old 04-01-2016, 09:18 AM   #9
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Yeah, backstory. Hypoxia has the gist of it. I have several stories where the backstory is embedded in the main narrative.(Warrior's Choice)

Then in others, it's the prologue.(Brotherhood of Janus)

Then there is one where the back story isn't told until almost the very end of the book (it's a novel length piece). (Walker Brigade)

Of course with any method, unless you want the backstory to overwhelm the main story, summarize. Leave the details vague, just tell the reader enough to let them know how the world works.

Last edited by Zeb_Carter : 04-01-2016 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:28 AM   #10
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If you're getting bored with the backstory, then so will your readers.

I don't need to know how a lightbulb works, just where the switch is. When and if it's important, you can let me know it's 100 watts with a tungsten filament.
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Old 04-01-2016, 11:38 AM   #11
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I agree that Hypoxia sums it out pretty well.

Back story is a great drag. When I read 'Let me tell you about me', I click out.

Think twice and then think twice again about whether your back story is vital to the plot. You can then either put it in the words of the participants or use dialogue. If they can, that works
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Old 04-01-2016, 11:56 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by elfin_odalisque View Post
I agree that Hypoxia sums it out pretty well.

Back story is a great drag. When I read 'Let me tell you about me', I click out.

Think twice and then think twice again about whether your back story is vital to the plot. You can then either put it in the words of the participants or use dialogue. If they can, that works
To be fair, it depends in what you're writing. Backstory doesn't belong in strokers or full bore shoot-em-ups. But if you're telling an actual tale, the background can be important. I get a lot of credit in comments for world building and character development; and the present doesn't matter if there's no past to give it context. Strokers don't need context, but most other things do.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:04 PM   #13
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In my story Filled with Joy, I faced the challenge of the main character, Jacob, struggling with his sexual history. (Fair warning, the story includes a lot of man-on-man sex.) I choose to tell the story as two competing narratives. There is the main narrative, but during a series of deepening flashbacks, more and more about Jacob is revealed until he finally embraces the secrets of his past and wins the girl.

In my recent story, Avril's Fool, a CFNM story, I really needed the audience to understand the backstory between Ted and Avril. They had a long history of being "just friends." A quarter of the way into the first page, you'll find two paragraphs that kicked my ass - trying to establish their relationship. I'm still not happy with it, so I trimmed it as tight as I could to set the stage and allowed the rest to be revealed as the primary story was told.

Looking back over those first 600 words, I can see where I introduced the important plot point of Ted blacking out once he reached a certain level of intoxication, too.

Or, maybe you're working too hard to justify the action. If we're invested in the characters, I think we're willing to suspend our disbelief and just accept them & what we learn about them as it happens. Of course, our hero is a concert violinist, master locksmith, and has black belts in two different martial arts. Why wouldn't he? He's the hero and the interesting part is why he actually works at the car rental desk in the airport.

Oh, one more tip: as electricblue66 says, tell the story. Then edit the hell out of it. There was a much bigger backstory to my story "Kissing My Sister's Cousin" that just didn't matter. I hated losing thousands of words, but it's a better, more direct story because of it.
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Old 04-01-2016, 01:46 PM   #14
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Where backstory can get interesting and really serve the story is when it both informs and surprises the reader. I'm writing such a story now. In this approach, it isn't given up front. It's doled out in little, surprising nuggets as the story moves on, giving surprising insight that becomes significant in the understanding and resolution of the dilemma and contradicts assumptions that the reader has been encouraged to make.
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Old 04-01-2016, 05:25 PM   #15
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I'm working on a long piece and I'm trying to do a lot of hinting and foreshadowing in the first few chapters so that when the antagonist's back story begins to unfold (some he tells to another character, some is in flashback form) they're really looking forward to it and it doesn't seem like I'm shoving it at them, I want them to want it.
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