Still struggling with backstory

I returned to my Book I manuscript last night after three weeks off (working full-time meant every spare minute had to be spent getting ready for the Christmas gift-giving and entertaining activities).  I picked it up last night and looked at the edits I’d made longhand on my original manuscript.

There were more questions there than answers.  I’d written things like, “Consider condensing and using in Book II” and circled things rather than deleting them.  I am just having so much trouble deciding what to keep.

I’ve gotten great advice in answer to a previous post, and I’ll try to summarize it here, as much to inspire myself as to inform others:

  • Look at each scene and consider how it advances the plot.  If it doesn’t advance the plot, take it out.
  • Combine characters or eliminate them entirely if they don’t advance the plot.  (Think Tom Bombadil in LOTR.)
  • Let a friend read the manuscript and put a checkmark in the margin whenever they are a little bored.

I will do all of these.  I’m going to go back through my characters’ week spent in a certain location, which consists of activities during the day and conversations with their host in the evening.  I’ll have to make sure every activity and every conversation serves a purpose.  And I’ve pretty much decided their host is not going to tell them everything he originally told them right up front.  They need to feel the questions–they need to feel a little more rudderless–to make the story more compelling.  When I think of my favorite books, life is pretty awful for the characters as they work through the plot.  I need to toughen up and make things a little–OK, a lot–more awful for Ash and Lex. 

I don’t have a huge number of characters, but I’ve already combined several of them, so I’m feeling good about that.  The others all seem necessary to me at this point, so they can keep their heads for now.

Finally, I have a friend who has read the manuscript once and only offered a couple of comments.  She has promised to read the MS with a much more critical eye on this round.  I have been writing and being edited for 25 years, so I think I can take it. 

I’ll report back here on my progress.  Wish me luck.

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One Response to “Still struggling with backstory”

  1. Cassandra Jade Says:

    Sounds like you are making progress. I would suggest that if your protagonists are having an easy time of it at the moment, you make life much harder for them. Mostly because tension and conflict are what keep things interesting but usually only when it is happening to the characters we’ve started caring about. Wishing you the best of luck with your writing.

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