Lazy backstory

My pet peevish of the month.

Ok, so here’s the thing. Because I’ve been writing a short story that wasn’t going at all, yet it didn’t let me rest as I did want it to work – go figure the logic – I tried to get in mood of writing by reading a lot of short stories. From 5 pages to about 30 pages. It was good procrastination, so… As I did use the ones I liked as sort of a study experiment, I came to a conclusion there is really one thing that bothers me about most of those short stories. Because a lot of those stories were written by young people, I am not criticizing their choice – when I started out, I did the same thing.

Still, after about 300th time…

We all know there are certain themes that run through most stories around the world. No matter what culture, the writer’s background or any other thing you can think of – doesn’t matter at all. It’s the basic plot thing here as well, sort of the basic elements of the story.

But I must say it gets really annoying, to the point you just skip it altogether, when you read about 100th time the tragic story how the main character lost their parents at early age, sometimes live alone with their older/younger sibling (usually the MC is the younger one, who now rebells against their older sibling, who can’t seem to understand they have grown up while the other is desperately trying to keep them safe from the world) and just in case you toss in one more tragic accident or happening just to make it more dramatic for the reader. Or if we are talking about grownups, there is the aura of a lost family member or entire family.

I’m bothered by this, because it’s too easy. Yes, it’s tragic beyond world, but I don’t think it does much for character. Everybody have some tragic event in their past. Just because it’s bigger does not mean it makes the person more interesting. Twist that tragic story around! I don’t mean the character should have the perfect childhood, it’s just… it’s boring. it’s too simple. It’s too easy choice. It’s Batman story all over again.

How about close scare on a icy road? A fight with a close friend that tore the relationship apart? Educated by listening adults talk on their own? Boring office life after end of a promising University life, where they got with sports scholarship? Growing turnips in their flowerpots in their apartment because they fear hunger? Having to… anything else besides death in the family! Car accident that sent your best friend in wheel chair. Ant invasion, someone left them, someone’s arrival, someone used them and then tossed them aside – anything! Spice it up, not pour it over with black pepper!

Plus, who better can mess up your character later in the story if not the person, who know them from their early life? Mother, who wants them to return home for reunion? Old friend, who just can’t seem to shut up about you being caught on doing something naughty? A box of old memorials, which include a tiny spark of fire’s phone number that just happens to be working, when you call? A dog, who used to be your best friend, but now only bits you, when you try to touch it? Old roommate that knew your dirty secret? Old roommate, who has decided it’s utmost time you change your lifestyle? Or perhaps a priest, who thought you are devil incarnate and is now out to stop your job, because they happened to see you on town and are now determined the other party must know your very cruel character from childhood?

Killing is an easy choice for a writer. Together with that it also takes away opportunities for the story itself, of things your character must endure later in the story. A living hellion from the past is far more interesting addition than a body in a casket hidden under a headstone. Unless, of course, we’re talking about vampire you buried with thousand thorns, who has now finished gathering them all up and has returned. Or zombie, who you really don’t wanna meet. Or perhaps a ghost, who thinks you just have to be its playmate. Or maybe an illusion you can’t get out of your head…

Yeah, choices are still ours to make. But you can do so much better than just killing it.

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Filed under back story, backstory, elements of writing, lazy backstory, writing trivia

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