During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
I'm reading a book now that I'm really loving, having looked forward to getting into it because the premise is so intriguing.
But the other night I did the unthinkable: I skipped three pages!
How could you do this? you're wondering. You said you loved this book!
What took me out of the story, a scene in which the main character finally arrived at his destination after a long, arduous boat trip, was a large chunk of backstory. The backstory was tedious military history. I skimmed it (very quickly!) and found where the scene with my main character picked up again.
Annoyed, I wondered why the author chose this point for filling us in on something that happened before the main character was even born. Maybe when I finish the book, it will be clear.
Author and Writer's Digest columnist Nancy Kress, in her book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, warns that backstory 'interrupts the events of story time, making them lose momentum. Backstory in fiction is like commercials on television: an interruption that marks a good time for the watcher to disengage...and possibly lose interest.'
According to Kress, there are four ways to include backstory: the brief detail; the inserted paragraph; the flashback; and the expository lump. In my current book, the author used the latter technique, one that stopped me cold. The difference between a flashback and an expository lump is that a flashback is a dramatized scene with dialogue and action. An expository lump is an extended explanation of what has happened. Showing versus telling, I suppose. Literary device or not, it didn't work for me.
Can you remember a time when backstory interrupted the flow of a story you were reading?