LESSON TWO>>

Backstory>>

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Remember to begin you story at the point where the character’s life has or very quickly experiences a big problem that has stopped their everyday lives. That’s not to say you’re not supposed to know the backstory, you do. The trick is to trickle it in throughout the story and in places where it makes sense and will have the most impact.>>
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Backstory immediately kills the forward pace of the story, which is why you need to ask yourself does it really need to be in there. If the answer is yes, then make sure your transitions are clear. Do this quickly as you can. Like a flashback, too much of this stops the action in the story.>>
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Backstory is not something you need to be heavy-handed with. If background must be given, do it later (not at the beginning) but after you’ve pulled the reader in with the action of the story.>>
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Don’t forget stories begin in media res, in the middle of things. Long passages describing the town, the location or pages of internalization jerks the story to a stop.>>
To catch the attention of an editor you have a few paragraphs at most and having long detailed description of the beginning of the hero/heroine’s childhood, pets, home etc. won’t get you past the first reader at a publishing house. Always ask yourself, does this piece of information really need to be here? Does it move the story forward or reveal something important about the character?>>
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What is Plot?>>

What is plot? >>
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This is one of the best explanations of plot I’ve found. Ronald B. Tobias in 20 Master Plots has this definition— “Plot is story that has a pattern of action and reaction.” But Tobias continues, “Plot is a chain of cause-and-effect relationships that constantly create a pattern of unified action and behavior. Plot involves the reader in the game of ‘Why?’” >>
The reader remembers the events, learns the characters and their relationships between each other all while trying to figure out the ending of the story. >>
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Here is the definition of story. Story is only curiosity about what will happen. A relating of events, that is distant from the reader.>>
In plot, the reader is engaged in asking why, while story only arouses curiosity.>>
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The Tambra Kendall definition: Plot is when a character takes action to resolve the story problem.>>
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Plot and character are inseparable.>>

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Plot is the function of character, and character is the function of plot. They are bound together, like a Celtic knot work; you can’t see where it begins or ends.>>
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To plot we also need a logical connection (action/reaction) as to why a character makes one choice as opposed to another. Just because there is a logical connection doesn’t mean it has to be obvious. This is what is meant by good writing in that is appears to be casual. What I mean is something like, “Uncle always kept his old military pistol in the desk. Aunt hated it, but she could never get him to lock it up properly.”>>
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Another example: (An old one, but it works!) >>
If you introduce a shotgun in your story, you don’t have to keep shoving it at the reader. If you place the shotgun in the story, the reader knows it is there for a reason in the plot. Introduce the item so the reader sees notices and goes on. The reader should remember seeing the object earlier when the appropriate time arrives. In this case, the shotgun.>>
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Plot gives purpose and structure to a novel. >>
Unified purpose and action is the core of plot. This happens because that happened-cause and effect. The unified purpose is what helps create the whole story: beginning, middle and end. This purpose or goal gives the character motivation and will also bring conflict.>>
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Tobias goes on to say in 20 Master Plots, “When you ask yourself, what does my character want? You’ve begun the journey of plot. Plot is action, it moves, its dynamic. It is also organized. When you stop and think about it, when you begin plotting a story there evolves an organization of character and the events to develop a complete story.>>
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In Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Mistakes, page 23 explains it this way:>>
Something has changed.>>
Your character is threatened.>>
He/she vows to struggle.>>
He/she selects a goal and starts taking action toward it.>>
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It sounds simple, but so many of us have trouble getting it right.>>
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To keep the plot moving forward and the character in action DO NOT give your character what they want right away or the story is over. >>
By not giving them what they desire, you create tension and conflict. The characters must earn their happily-ever-after. The explanations of why a character decides something in the act of trying to reach their goal should fall in line with the type of character you’ve created.>>
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