I’m fortunate to belong to the Shelton College Review, a small group of writers who gather once a week to offer critique and encouragement – both are enormously important for writers – on our works in progress.
In reviewing one of my recent submittals, Larry was saying that he had been so caught up in the narrative, that he forgot that he was critiquing and was simply enjoying the story. Until, that is, I threw in heaping helping of backstory. His engagement came to a screeching halt.
I know better than to do that. It’s one thing to sprinkle in a paragraph or two of backstory, but I took the reader out of a dramatic moment – in the back of an ambulance! – to tell about Heather’s life in high school. Duh.
Thanks, Larry, for pointing that out. And as painful as that was to hear (that I could be so dumb), it was even harder to fix. I’ve spent several hours setting things right, hours that I could have been using to write something new.
How did I fix it?
First, I spread it around a little. Backstory in small doses (a couple of sentences) is acceptable.
Then I let the dramatic scene in the ambulance play out. After things had calmed down, I worked some of the backstory into dialogue. Things are still happening. There’s still tension. There’s still character development as Heather and Lucas talk. And the reader learns a little bit more about Heather and why she is the way she is.
And then there’s the little problem about coincidences. More on that later.