Hey Baby, What’s Your Back Story and why we are running around so much

Hey baby, what’s your back story? 

It should be a pick-up line at a bar, yet it somehow is not a pick-up line at any bar that I know of except maybe in a New Yorker cartoon or a bar in a town where there’s one of those MFA programs in writing literature for literary people doing literary things. 

Anyway, it’s a term writers throw around all the time and it is basically just how we imagine our characters’ lives went before they are in the actual story that we’re writing. 

I know! How can you imagine that your character had a life before your story? It’s like imagining your spouse had a life before you that wasn’t totally centered around you. Us narcissists have a hard time with that. 

Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space, I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important…

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

According to a post on Now Novel there are three uses of back story.

  1. Developing the understanding of the characters. Like if your dad died of a heart attack in front of you and you couldn’t save him, then your character might have a savior complex. It helps the reader understand your characters’ motivations. 
  2. It can heighten the stakes and the suspense. You were once addicted to dating cops. Cops were always bad for you. Will you date this one? NO! YOU MUST NOT. 
  3. It makes it real damn it. By the time, you make it into a book, you’re not going to be a blank slate, born out of Zeus’ head or a clamshell fully formed on page 1. We all have prologues. 

Standout asks how much back story does a story need and answers its own question pretty simply:

If judged solely on complexity, the answer to ‘how much back story should I include?’ would be ‘enough to pay for the reader’s efforts,’ however you also need to consider immersion.

Standout

Ah. Okay?

Here is our advice: 

  • Don’t be fake. Don’t be pretend. We all know people who show up at a party, engage in small talk about absolutely nothing other than the weather, the traffic, where they work. There is no underlayment. It’s like they are a rug thrown on the floor, but if you touch that rug it will just slip away because there’s nothing holding it there. 
  • Do not let your characters be rugs. 
  • Ground those suckers with nails and staples if you have to. ModPodge them to the floor, give them a life before you. 
  • Don’t tell us everything about them. We do not know that they prefer Aquafina to Poland Spring water or that they had an ingrown toenail when they were twenty-four any more than you want to know about the guy at the party’s hemorrhoid treatment unless it’s really good. Be sparing. 

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.

Stephen King

Writing Tip of the Pod 

Find the balance in your backstory and your life. 

Dog Tip for Life

Run through adversity. Don’t give up. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 



Hey Baby, What’s Your Back Story and why we are running around so much

 
 
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LOST STORIES

So, I was cruising through some files and found an old YA story that I wrote in 2012. I’m going to post the first pages below because I’m trying to decide if I should go back and work on it or not.

Other writers out there? Do you ever stumble back on 50,000-words of forgotten stories? Or is that just me?

It makes me wonder about these lost stories, the discarded computer files, abandoned for other stories and sometimes forever forgotten.

Terrifying Things

It’s hard to share full, done books and I’m getting super freaked out about IN THE WOODS’ release in July. July is so soon!

So, this book baby in all its raw form is even scarier. Here you go, never before seen by human eyes other than mine. I hope this makes you all feel better about your drafts!

RUNNING

TODAY

“Miss?” the woman says. “You need to pay.”

            I pull some money out of the embroidered elephant wallet that I’ve had since I was five and try to make my hand not tremble. The ache behind my eyes seems to dull the store’s fluorescent lighting and make the world blurrier. “Oh. Sorry.”

            The cashier takes my money. The bills are crumpled and dog-eared. Less than twenty-four hours ago those bills were lined up in the top drawer of my dad’s bureau right next to his gun. I took that, too, even though I already had one stolen gun tucked into my belt. 

            “Thanks,” I say as the cashier hands me my change. I’ve loaded the case of water, the people food, the batteries, dog food and bedding into the cart already. It’s just the notebook and pens that are left, which seems both appropriate and symbolic somehow. 

            “Bit cold for camping,” the cashier says. She meets my eyes. She’d been avoiding them. 

            I fake smile. “Yeah. I’m hardy though.”

            “What?” Her eyes fully focus on mine now. 

            “Hardy…. I’m hardy though. You know? Tough.”

            She shakes her head and chuckles even as she starts ringing through the next person in line’s stuff. Diapers. Pepto Bismol. “I thought you said, ‘I’m Artie though.’ And I was all, ‘That’s a funny name for a girl.’ You have a good day, sweetie. Stay warm.” 

            I sort of stand there awkwardly for a second, just staring at the plastic bags of stuff in the shopping cart. I feel guilty for having to use plastic instead of canvas bags from home. I feel guilty for taking the money and the gun. I feel guilty for what I’m about to do, but I have no choice. All the moments in the last few days have ensured that I have no other choice. 

            The guy behind me clears his throat, and I apologize again for being in the way. Pushing the shopping cart, I turn it, and start heading down past the other check-out lanes towards the doors, keeping my head low so that the security cameras will only see my hat, not my face. 

            And the whole time, I’m mumbling, “Don’t remember me. Don’t remember me. Don’t me remember me.” It’s like this little mantra will make words become truth.

            And the whole time, the cart is making this funky screeching noise because one of the wheels is a little bit off its track and is scraping against the metal of the cart. 

            And the whole time, I’m praying that I am not making the worst decision in my life.  But no, I have already done that, haven’t I? Or maybe it was the best? 

            I stop the shopping cart right by the door greeter and check the closest plastic bag. The notebooks are there. That’s important. It’s more important than the batteries or the food or the water. 

            I will write it all down, old-school style, just like someone did for me. No computers, not even the ones at the public library, because then they can log your IP address. I will write it all down in the notebooks and then send it to my mom or dad and then they can decide what to do with it. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll send it to someone I don’t love so much. 

            When Mom gets home today, she’ll know that something has happened. Maybe not right away because I didn’t leave a note. Maybe she’ll call my name and head up to my bedroom looking for me and see all the clothes missing from my closet. Maybe she’ll notice when Sparty doesn’t come to the door to greet her. Maybe she’ll still be at work and she’ll get an email from the high school about my unexplained and unexcused all-day absence. Maybe she’ll just know the way moms sometimes just know things. She’ll call my dad. He will freak out because he is horrible in any sort of crisis. One of them will probably call the police and I will become a missing teenager in an official way. My face will be in newspapers and the news feeds of social networking sites. People will be upset and then most of them will forget. 

            And in a couple more days, the notebooks will come. She’ll get the mail, or maybe my dad will, and she’ll be excited because she’ll think the notebooks mean hope, that they mean that I’m still alive, and she won’t realize that what they really mean is that I am gone from them forever or at least for a good, long while. 

            The store’s automatic doors open and I push the cart out into the parking lot. November wind blows the edges of the plastic. I get to the Subaru. Caleb is there. Waiting. The same way I was waiting for him, for so long. 

            He opens the hatch in the back of the car and starts putting things inside. Sparty sits in the back seat, patiently watching the entire thing. The end of his tail wags just the smallest of bits. 

            Caleb stops loading for a second, grabs my hand in his and says, “Are you sure about this? You don’t have – ”

            I interrupt him because I don’t want to hear him say it aloud. “I’m sure. I go with you.”

            I want to fall over onto the pavement, slump against the car and weep. I want to curl my hands into fists and punch the tires, punch the bumper, punch the world for being so wrong and so unfair, but most of all I want to hug Caleb, to hold him in my arms and tell him that I will never let go. 

            So, that is what I do. 

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


Art News

I’ll be at CoeSpace in Bangor on June 7 as an artist! I know! I know! I’m hyperventilating about it already.

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale