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Scene Daily: *Yawn* Of Backstory and Boredom

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Let's Write A Short Story, Joe BuntingSo, yesterday I reported that I was reading Let’s Write a Short Story. I hadn’t read more than a page or two yesterday but have now read most of the book. It’s extremely well written and contains some excellent tips on how to write short stories specifically, over other forms of writing. For myself in particular I have found it useful, as I write novels.

As we’ve established, I’m not a lover of short prose.

I have, on occasion, written a novella, but again, as established, this has always been by mistake while attempting to write a short story. The benefits of writing short stories are myriad and I repeatedly tell people, when they ask me for advice, to write short stories.

Yes it is something I have not seriously applied myself to until very recently.

There’s something to be said in there about physicians and self healing, but my MEDs have kicked in good style and I’m about to pass out where I sit, so I shall get to the point.

One interesting point made by Joe Bunting is that there is no room in a short story for backstory. I immediately saw the wisdom in this statement once the point had been made – I already extol the great benefit of withholding the answers to the reader’s questions, rather than explaining right from the outset everything that came before.

But, I need to establish world!

Yes, you do, but kindly do that through the telling of the story, and not through the explanation of what happened before the story.

But, I need to set the scene!

Yes, you do, but setting the scene entails telling the reader what is currently happening not everything that led to the moment.

By withholding the backstory you can create mysteries that draw your readers in and make them continue reading to find the answers. In much the same manner that you might plant a pivotal question in a scene but fail to provide an answer for several chapter, the absence of backstory is a hook.

The presence of backstory is a bore.


Beginning a novel with several pages of backstory is bad enough, but doing it in a short story is even worse. This was kind of a no brainer as soon as I read it, and yet when I was writing Bleizgeist, I allowed elements of backstory to slip in. Not a lot. But enough that I realised this was a really crucial point and one I had to nail down immediately.

Backstory is boring!

Mysteries are fun.

Buried Alice In AdminIf you’re wondering how editing is going the answer is slowly. Although I did edit part of a scene for today’s challenge it was only part, as I have been BURIED in admin today and an endless string of thankless tasks. I also had my weekly appointment with my Psychiatrist, which ate into the day to the tune of several hours.

On the plus side, the admin has one bonus and that is that Bipolar Vision will soon be back in style, re-branded, revamped, with a brand (no pun intended) new home. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I wasn’t actually faking that yawn, I really am sleepy, so I shall now retire to bed.

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Published inWritingScene Daily
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