Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where's the back go?

Do any of you get books about writing fiction? I got some great ones from my wife, including Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. Several of them recommended that an aspiring author read a favorite book while taking copious notes.

I am currently doing this with Flight of the Nighthawks by Raymond  Feist. I haven’t read it before, so I can’t call it a ‘favorite,’ but with so many books on my to-be-read pile (can I get an ‘Amen’?), re-reading something wasn’t the right plan for me. As it happens, I’m really enjoying the book, so I’m glad I chose it. It’s a high-fantasy that’s told from the point of view of a magical not-so-secret society, but focusses more on the political intrigues.

Reading while taking notes has proven to be pretty tedious, but well worth it. I’m jotting notes on setting, character, plot, and back-story. What I’m learning the most, though, is how to seed the back-story throughout the story so that the world is expanded and enriched without the dreaded Info Dump. There was one instance of explaining-to-the-ignorant-character in an extended conversation, but most of the history is doled out one or two paragraphs at a time as it relates to the characters or setting of the scene. This seems to be a great way to put in the back-story and world-building; it certainly works for Feist.

What are your tricks for back-story? Do you have any favorite books on writing?


  1. A most interesting topic Will, I have tried to write fiction but found it difficult after poetry writing.


  2. The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard, but its not as much about technique, as it is about what its like to be a writer.
    Technique books, I've read some but only own one...but its in a bin. I think its called 37 Most Common Fiction Mistakes and its pretty good, but it doesn't include exercises that I remember.

  3. I've never taken notes while reading. My favorite writing book is Save the Cat. It's for screenplays, but there's key information listed for any written story.

  4. I try to weave backstory into world building and setting the scene, like yourself. The rest I try to add in through quirks and ticks of the characters themselves.