Fiction Craft Workshop - Backstory

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Every 3rd Wednesday of the month

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We've moved one of the traditional Wednesday fiction workshops to Saturday at 2 PM to explore a particular “craft” strategy. Fiction writers, and those writers interested in fiction, on all levels, are welcome.

The topic for December 1 is Backstory.

No matter where we begin our stories, there’s always something that came before. As the authors, we need to know everything about our characters, all the history that led up to this story we are telling, but it's up to our characters to figure out how, when, and why to reveal the information, and what's essential for the reader to know, and what should remain mysterious. The trick is to determine the point at which a story is almost contractually obligated to tell the reader what it knows, then it's up to us authors to thread the backstory via clever, imaginative ways; and it's tricky because backstory runs backward while the story runs forward. We don't want to disrupt the narrative urgency of the story, that river of words that urges the reader sentence upon sentence, paragraph upon paragraph, page upon page in an arc towards the end.

And surely, unless we are Herman Melville, we want to avoid the dreaded information dump.

There are two files uploaded to read in advance. You'll find them here:

1201_burlington_backstory.doc contains examples drawn from New Yorker Stories. Please either print out this file or have it available on your laptop to discuss; after which we'll work with prompts.

1201_burlington_bock.doc is a short piece submited by Martin Bock for feedback that also includes his essay on backstory. Please print out his story, mark up with your comments and include a summary page to hand back to him after we discuss the work.

New to the workshop? Read this guide

Want to give good feedback? Read this article

For directions and parking information

Riki Moss is a published novelist and short story writer, a BWW member since 2015. Attending workshops, and reading, reading, reading as well as writing, writing, writing are her tools as she navigates a difficult draft in her second novel. She’s been a recipient of several VAC development grants, residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, at JumpSlide in New Orleans and the UN COP10 in Nagoya, Japan.

Contact me at [masked]

Workshop leader: Riki Moss