Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The horrific word: 'background'

Some followers already know how much I hate writing character backgrounds. When things are all spelled out too neatly, it's boring. When I'm reading, I like to make my own guesses/decisions about things, not be told every detail.

Which is why Justine Larbalestier's book "Liar" is one of my all-time favourite books.

When I first started writing "The Rules of Riding Shotgun", I wrote this post, and then clarified it with a second post, since I wasn't as eloquent as I could have been the first time...

Most of that first post no longer applies. By the time I finished writing the first draft, I did know a lot more about both the MC & Triss's histories. I even added a bunch of background stuff before handing it off to my first set of beta-readers.

But apparently, it wasn't enough.

I got chastised by every one of my readers :)

...and rightly so.

So, yesterday (and the last week or so) I've been picking away at the story. Most of what I'm doing is fleshing out Triss's character a little more so she seems like less of a sociopath, but I'm also specifically going in and adding snippets of their histories.

Like, Triss got into trouble and was held back a grade. She's the same age as Jackson & Spence, but she's a year behind them. Previously, it wasn't even mentioned that she was a sophomore. I haven't decided yet if I want to make it more obvious that her mom is Jewish...

Another history bit I've added/clarified, is the MC still lives at home with his/her father, and the father's girlfriend. There are also a few new lines about what happened to the MC's mom.

So far I've added about 2,000 words, and I'm on page 57 of 224. I've also deleted some redundant info/etc, and am working to make the 'rules' stronger.

I still don't like backgrounds, and don't worry, there are no new info-dumps about either of their histories, but hopefully I have added enough small bits that readers won't be trying to beat me over the head for more information.

'Cause that is one of my known-problems... I like subtlety too much, so while I think everything is screamingly-obvious, readers are like, "I have no idea what's going on, and this is driving me crazy!"

So, yeah, trying to fix that :)

Which is the purpose of editing, right? To make the story better :)

How much background do you know before writing? Do you develop it before, or during the story? Do you usually have to add more background in, or take some of it out during your first round of edits?


  1. Ugh, I know what you mean! Fleshing out character backgrounds is a necessary evil. I'm not crazy about them either but I do try to come up with at least the bare bones before writing a story - otherwise I'll come to the middle of the WIP and be like, "OHHH, that's who they are!"

    1. Hahaha, yeah, I definitely fall into the "OHHHH, that's who they are!" category, but often it isn't until I've finished writing the entire story ;)

  2. I write first and background after. That’s what pansters do. I’ll write something then say: why did she or he do that???

    Here’s an interesting blog for ya


    Is it relevant that her mother is Jewish?

    1. Interesting link, thanks!

      Hmmm, not like, you won't understand the story... it's just another small piece of the background/history puzzle. Like, you'd lose the significance of the dad always having bacon & shrimp in his 'fridge when Triss comes over... 'cause the guy is totally passive-aggressive.


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)