Good morning, or should I say good evening fellow Racers, as it’s technically Friday right now and I haven’t been to bed yet. It’s pretty early for me to be posting, I know (half past midnight is the morning, so it counts as early) but I won’t be able to post from work on Friday, as I’m doing recruitment and am not at my desk. I won’t be having a coffee as I’m on water, doctor’s orders to drink more of the clear stuff* due to having dehydrated corneas – why yes, they are as horrible as they sound – but please feel free to help yourself to caffeinated delights, hot chocolate, Neil Gaiman coffee, ginger tea, or mulled wine (hey, it’s still winter, why not?)
Now are we all sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
I’ve spent the past week in and among editing, wondering about history and consistency in plot. As a fantasy writer, I often find (or am informed – thank you darling) that I’ve made up something that either doesn’t make sense or has no particular reason. As Joss Whedon said, when asked how fast his spaceship Serenity travelled, “it goes at the speed of plot.” This may work fine when you are a famous and successful American TV show writer. It’s not so good actually when you’re ‘Jo Blogs’ (see what I did there?) from a little section of the North where the only claim to fame is that it’s the Rhubarb Triangle (thank you Stephen Fry and the QI team).
So – do other Racers have complex backstories, or things they need to explain to themselves, or character histories? It’s all well and good dropping the reader in at the deep end in the middle of the action, but if you don’t know where they came from, does it still work as well or do you risk confusing the reader? Is writing fantasy wildly different from writing plain fiction or chick lit, or is it all much the same when you get down to the bones of the thing, rather like Gil Grissom and his yummy designer glasses? When you’re all writing, do you work out any character history or backstory beforehand, or do you make it all up as you go along, or halfway through do you suddenly tweak and recap and invent an Aunt Mildred in Stoke who’s essential to the plot?
I do realise that writing backstory before you start ‘writing proper’ can lead to you procrastinating while you write reams and reams of who-begat-who and what Aunt Mildred said about Our Sally in 1982. Note: I am not advocating writing like this. I tried this when I was at university, building fantasy worlds at the expense of my actual writing. Mistake. However, some of that procrastination has been useful at forming the bare bones of my ideas, and has been duly battered into submission and is no longer recognisable as its original incarnation as ‘some ghastly bumph about fighting elves’.
So – how do people feel about history, backplot-to-be-revealed and character detailing? How do you create realistic 3d characters, or are you lucky enough that the sketchy notes work for you?
This post has been brought to you by lack of sleep, Viscotears eye drops and two hours of editing (and rather a lot of parentheses.)
*sadly not gin