for writers and readers….

BACK STORY Writing Article Number 1 from the Archive

screenplay-408252_640Different writing disciplines aren’t locked into tight compartments. If you’re writing a novel I think it helps to read poetry for the richness of the language and the way it opens you up to fresh ways of making words work together. But if you need assistance with structure then I suggest you look at the challenges faced by scriptwriters.

I subscribe to Philip Shelley’s weekly email newsletter. He has worked as script editor and producer on many successful series, such as INSPECTOR MORSE, KAVANAGH QC and WAKING THE DEAD.  I particularly enjoyed Waking the Dead (and isn’t it one of the best titles ever) so I was interested to learn how they dealt with the problem of having too much back story — having to explain what happened in the past.

This is what he had to say.

 “The one ‘format’ difficulty with WAKING THE DEAD was the fact that the cold cases had obviously all happened in the past – they were essentially BACK-STORY – and this necessitated a lot of expositional unpacking of this back-story. So the investigation of the cold case always had to work alongside an investigation in the present – usually a new murder committed in an attempt to cover up the truth of the cold case murder.”

This strategy can be translated to a short story or novel. The main event – and the consequences that spiral out of it – can happen in the past but you also need a correspondingly big and connected  drama happening in the ‘now’ of the story

8 comments on “BACK STORY Writing Article Number 1 from the Archive

  1. robbiesinspiration
    August 23, 2017

    Very useful advice, Bridget, thank you for sharing.

  2. Danny Kemp
    August 23, 2017

    I think this is where a storyboard helps. Waking The Dead obviously had a very intricate Back-Story, but the principle applies to all novels where the Past plays an important part in the Present.

    • bridget whelan
      August 23, 2017

      Good idea . In fact. it’s such a good idea I am going to take up your suggestion and try storyboarding on something I’m working on at the moment because, while the story is focussed on events in the present, the relationship between the characters has been forged in the past and…but I digress. Thanks Danny for stopping by!

  3. Sheila M. Good, Author
    August 24, 2017

    Great idea and discussion. Thanks for sharing. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

    • bridget whelan
      August 24, 2017

      And thank you for coming by – I’ve just followed you on twitter

      • Sheila M. Good, Author
        August 24, 2017

        A pleasure to have you here in the Cow Pasture. Thanks for visiting and thanks for the follow. I’ve always enjoyed your posts.

  4. scarlett1000
    August 24, 2017

    I discovered this when starting out with my novel and had to change it to fix this very issue. Useful post. Thanks.

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This entry was posted on August 23, 2017 by in Muse and tagged , , .


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