Nancy: WU UnConference Lesson 2 Con’t: Backstory as the Backbone of Your Story

This scene from Moonstruck packs a punch because we know these characters' backstories.

This scene from Moonstruck packs a punch because we know these characters’ backstories.

In last week’s post, I nattered on about Lisa Cron’s message that backstory is the decoder ring for any story we write. This week, let’s take the discussion one step further. Let’s talk about putting some of that glorious backstory you’re creating into your current WIP.

Gasp! Egads! Not the Dreaded Backstory!

Before you go running for the exits, hear me (channeling Lisa) out. As the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius as well as a long-time writing coach and teacher, Lisa has researched lots of brain science to back up her theory that not only do we need to create our characters’ backstories for our own authorial edification, but also for reader enlightenment and, ultimately, bonding with our characters. Our brains use story to explore different aspects and possibilities of the wider world so we can learn lessons from those experiences without putting ourselves in harm’s way. (Lisa puts it much more elegantly in her books, and really, you should be reading her books!) And because our brains are incredibly efficient machines, they will use the same techniques to decipher fictional stories as they do real-life events.

Let’s think about that in the context of character for a minute. Think back to meeting someone important in your life, for example, your significant other or your best friend. Continue reading

Jilly: If You Can’t Go Forward, Go Back

If You Can't Go Forward, Go BackThere are so many things to learn about this writing game, and a surprising amount of it is a matter of trial and error. Process is a great example. After three years, I’m still figuring mine out. Given my resume I should be a plotter, but I turned out to be a pantser. I compensate by developing the story sequentially, start to finish. Some authors write the juicy bits first; I have to work my way up to them in an orderly fashion. I wish I was faster – a thousand words a day seems to be my cruising speed – but when I’ve got ‘em down, they tend to stick, and once I get some momentum I can usually maintain it for days, weeks, even months.

I think I figured out something new about my process this week. Continue reading