Sin #6 – Well La Di Frickin’ Da

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Written Sins. Today I’m serving up a heaping helping of who the frick cares! Don’t worry, the sarcasm is free of charge. 😉

Too much back-story is boring, and too much boring back-story is downright painful. How did I discover this? By reading my own writing naturally. I’ve rewritten the beginning of my manuscript at least a dozen or so times. I’m labouring over it as we all know that the beginning ‘sell’s your novel. Skip ahead. I wrote it, I loved it, and I sent it out for feedback. It went something like this –  ‘Meh, well, it’s okay.’  OKAY??? Just okay? You’re calling my darling just, okay???  *chucks it in the bin*

Here’s the thing, as writers we care a lot about the back-story. It shapes the entire world we create and is ultimately the backbone of our multi-faceted characters. BUT. That doesn’t mean that our readers give a crap. For example; do you care that my parents were divorced when I was two? There a million others out there just like me so it doesn’t exactly make me unique. In order to know me better did you really need to know that particular piece of info? I don’t think so. Exploring that a little further let’s say that it was the very first and only thing that you knew about me, prior to actually meeting me for the first time. Would it change the way you viewed me? Or the way you might feel about me? Possibly. Example: You meet a strange man for the first time. You don’t know that he has cancer. He’s a jerk. You walk away thinking ‘damn that guy is a frigging jerk’ but if you knew that he had cancer either up front, or afterwards, you’re naturally going to be more empathetic. You’d react differently.

So, the lesson here is that knowledge is a powerful tool. The pieces of back-story you choose to include, when you choose to include it, should be significant, and minimal. 

Tammy’s Tip of The Week

Next time you’re reading a book do this; every time you set it down for the night, or for a pee break, or maybe even for sunscreen re-application if you’re so lucky, look to see where it is you decided to stop reading. Note it down. Do this for at least two books and then review your findings.

I’ve discovered that there are two main times that I set the book down, one is during long back-story narrations, and the other is during scenes that are unnecessarily descriptive. I hope you pop back in sometime and let me know yours. 🙂 

AND THE WINNER IS:   Devin O’Branagan!!! Congrats and I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address and send you a copy of Pretty Souls asap. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for participating 🙂

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14 Responses to Sin #6 – Well La Di Frickin’ Da

  1. Anne Michaud says:

    I stop reading at chapter breaks – how boring am I?!?

    I do find excessive backstory/flashbacks/past references really annoying and passive, but I’m an action girl, I like things to move… You know, this feels very therapeutic to talk about this in your comment section. I’ve *just* realized something about my WiP. Thanks, Dr Tammy:)

  2. Gareth says:

    To be honest Im like Anne, Chapter breaks. So perhaps not quite as revealing as it should be. LOL

    • CDNWMN says:

      Chapters are usually in alternating waves, so it’s interesting to see if you’re breaking either after or before a ‘big’ scene. And boring….no you aren’t. 😉

  3. diannewaye says:

    I stop reading when somebody rips the book from my face, needs me to put sunscreen on them, or needs to be fed. I’m not going to be able to try this experiment until school starts again. But I’m going to check it out – watch and learn from my own behavior.
    I’m with you on the backstory issue. I’d rather have the details integrated into the action.

  4. I stop at chapter breaks as well – however, I have put a couple of books down lately that just didn’t pull me in fast enough – I will probably go back and restart them (when I’m stuck for something to read). I know what you mean about our own writing though – I had to rewrite the intro to my ms quite a few times – first there was no backstory – then there was too much and now it’s just right – I think – lol!

  5. I won! Yay! I never win anything, so this really is exciting! Thanks!

    Okay, back to earth…

    I stop reading when there is excessive description. It kills the flow for me. As a writer I work hard to avoid those dead spots in my own novels, however I tend to err in the other extreme. One criticism I receive about my work is that there’s not enough description. I’m working to improve that by finding creative, subtle ways to introduce it. To that end, I’ve been studying poetry lately. A poetic reference can say so much more than plain narrative.

    Very nice post, Tammy!

    • CDNWMN says:

      Excellent point about a poetic reference Devin, it’s so often true. I’m glad you came by. 🙂 And your copy of Pretty Souls is in the mail, I’m so please you won. 🙂

  6. As usual, an excellent post that doesn’t preach. Its witty and alive and with the right amount of humour and sarcasm to keep us on our toes and keep us reading. No backstory there…just the action in your blog which propels us forward and makes us want more. Keep writing. These are the things that make great writing. Of course, its easier said than done, but at least you understand the formula and you’re willing to share it. 🙂

    • CDNWMN says:

      Pat that is one of the nicest things I could imagine anyone having to say. Thank you so much for that, and for taking the time to come by and say it. 🙂

  7. Yep, too much backstory is no good 🙂 Sometimes it is necessary, but you must space it out. Thanks for sharing!


  8. CDNWMN says:

    Thanks for stopping by busy lady! Good to see you’re still kicking. 😉

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