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?