Monday, November 9, 2015

The Quays of Lac-Carge: Steampunk and Gaslamp Intersect


How Can One Explain a Novel? I'm Not Sure One Can!


My latest opus, in all its glory!

How To Pigeonhole Classify Quays

I wrote Quays 5 years ago. It was when Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy (the two genres which I waffle between classifying it as... Steampunk usually wins out) were much more fringe than they are now.

It was also when self-publishing was not as common as it is now.

Thematic Veins Running Through the Narrative

Commonalities

This novel features themes and tropes common to other pieces of my fiction: parents missing or dead; a childless main character; a personal goal or vendetta intersecting with a grand, world-shattering event; a totem or animal choosing the main character, and a sense that things don't always progress linearly in life.

Differences

A Male Main Character
Quays has differences, though. It is the only one of my novels with a male main character. I don't know why I wanted to write about him, but I just did. I felt like this character was male. In other words, there wasn't anything I could do about it after he first strolled into my head.

Science Fiction? Fantasy? Why Not Both!
Also, there is an intersection of science fiction and fantasy. My other works fall more into one side or the other. That is just how it came about. To be strict Steampunk, I believe many readers would say that a piece of fiction should not contain any fantasy. However, I have never been much for following rules (especially in my fiction), and so the novel contains elements of both genres.

Winter: A Character Unto Itself
A third thing that this novel contains is winter. It's a winter that has nothing to do with spells or evil Winter Witches, but it adds a plot element that becomes almost a character unto itself. Winter, for anyone that has lived in a cold climate, certainly can be just as deadly as a mortal enemy.

Compressed Timeframe
A fourth thing is that the novel takes place in just a few weeks, aside from the epilogue. My other novels tend to have much more of a grand sweep. The passage of time takes the place of winter in these other novels, again, until time itself becomes another character.

Humor and Light

Given the constraint of genre and time, plus the added stranglehold of bitter cold, Quays is filled with moments of true friendship, adventure, delight, beauty and love. It also has humor, a time or two almost as much as I could stand to give it without turning a scene into a farce. The dark, despairing, disgusting and desperate parts of this novel cried out for laughter to balance them out.

A Denouement and a Treatise on Friendship

I love Quays. Of course I would love it, I hope, having written it and published it.... And yet I can attest that some of the moments in this novel feature the kindest hearts and truest friendships I have ever written about. The main characters would die for each other, but would of course all much rather go on living together instead. This great-heartedness is a central point of the novel, and the characters' friendships go beyond family or master-servant, or even that of lovers, or any other easily classified relationship.

When a character saves the life of the person who has wronged him almost to death... well, that is the epitome of great-heartedness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thoughts on Holidays and Their Meaning in My Fiction

It's the beginning of the holiday season!



My calendar is stuffed at this time of year by holidays. My husband's early October birthday, Canadian Thanksgiving (due to my Quebecoise heritage and the fact that every year should contain at least two Thanksgivings), Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day. Whew! Festivals are squished in there at the end of the calendar for us.

First of all, end-of-year sounds either correct or ridiculous weather-wise, depending upon where in the world you are. I grew up in Maine, where there's about 1.5 months of hot weather. The rest of the time it's either cool or downright frigid.

In my 20's, I moved to Southern California, whereto my shockI found out that even Thanksgiving Day is not immune to 90F heat and blazing sunshine.

This put a big dampener in my excitement over the holiday season for the first few years after my move. A Thanksgiving without sweaters? A Christmas without a blizzard? Wha

And then I thought of other people the world over. Things like Christmas or Hanukkah are date dependent, meaning that if people celebrate these days, they'll have totally different experiences if they live in, say, Sao Paulo or Adelaide than they would in Portland, ME or Reykjavik.

Now, this bias of my childhood was reinforced by the TV/film media, who always portray the holiday season as full of hot chocolate and mittens. This realization would probably not have taken someone living in Palm Beach so long, haha.

Then, as I became more intrigued by different celebrations, I learned that many cultures start their calendars in different seasons. Spring is a popular time to start the new year, as everything is renewing itself.

All this doesn't even touch on the fact that there are also many cultures that have completely different calendars, some going by the lunar calendar. My fantasy WIP main character comes from such a culture, and she has trouble with the solar calendar because of this.

This entire holiday realization didn't end there. Although I had been a storyteller and writer my entire life, it wasn't until my 20's that I truly became serious at my craft. All my research on holidays began to percolate in my brain, and what came out was a realization about the festival need in all cultures. Even the most stoic people need some sort of gathering, sharing, food-centric festival. This need seems to cross all borders. Any civilization or world I made up would need to include that human trait in it, or the world itself would feel hollow.

The fact is, though, that those calendar-centric holidays like American Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are artificial when transported to different locations. The real celebrations germinate from what the actual climate, food sources, religious affiliations and temperament of the culture are at the place where the holiday is being celebrated.

I love to make my own worlds as natural and as believable as they can be. One of the biggest ways is to invest them with their own natural rhythms. This is, to me, one of the best ways of sharing my own love of the strange, wonderful and expansive SF/F world with my readers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Inspiring Women: Martha Wells, Fearless Author

This is a post in the series, Inspiring Women.


To kick off my new blog series, I've chosen someone who is and has been a big influence on my writing: Martha Wells.

Ms. Wells writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her first published novel, The Element of Fire, is a total immersion into a new world and a kingdom called Ile-Rien. Her second novel, Death of the Necromancer (which was nominated for a Nebula) is set a few hundred years after her first novel.

These novels are brilliant in ways that I admire. Not only is Ms. Wells willing to relegate the characters of her first novel to mere murky figures of the past in her second novel, she is also willing to make difficult choices about the city, a-la Godzilla running rampant through your beautiful Sim City creation. In Death of the Necromancer, Ile-Rien is a mixture of new technology and stagnation. Not to mention a few of the characters who are odes to Sherlock Holmes characters, but I don't want to give too much away.

To round out the Ile-Rien saga, Ms. Wells wrote a trilogy that takes place several years after Death of the Necromancer. Talk about fearless, Ms. Wells is willing to bomb the city relentlessly and use it as a backdrop for a war that spans not just continents, but worlds. This trilogy is aptly named The Fall of Ile-Rien.

A rare still shot of the carnage the fearless Martha Wells wreaks in her fiction.

In between the Ile-Rien novels, Ms. Wells has written many stand-alone novels, all excellent, especially City of Bones.

In her newest series, Ms. Wells is fearless once again. She has created another new world, and one species in particular named the Raksura (the series is eponymous). It takes a masterful touch to write about a species so different from humans, and yet so compelling and relatable. Once again, I dislike giving too much away about any creative endeavor, so just let me say that one of the joys associated with reading about the Raksura is to see what customs they have that are wildly different than human customs. The Raksura are fascinatingly and satisfyingly alien, yet within that difference is a kernel of similarity.

Ms. Wells has a blog, and a website. She also tweets and her handle is @marthawells1.

As a fearless writer of Speculative Fiction, Ms. Wells' fiction is difficult to resist. Her style has inspired me to be more fearless in my own writing.


















Author Martha Wells
Website
Blog
Twitter

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My New Novel: The Quays of Lac-Carge

My new novel is now available!


I'm thrilled with the cover. It conveys the feeling of the world I've built;
a gaslamp/steampunk era where magic still lives.


Lac-Carge is the capital of a nation on the brink of a new age. Gaslamps light the city streets, and sandusk pellets propel motorboats and the fledgeling balloon industry. Yet underneath this shiny new technology, magic still lives.

This is a world where Alexander was born into privilege and great wealth, only to have it stripped away by an insatiable queen. Four years later, he's conspiring with the quay workers at Lac-Carge's busy shipping port. Their goal? To wrest control of the quays back from the queen.

Yet no one realizes the depths to which the queen will sink. Not only is she intent upon keeping the property she stole from Alexander, she is also scheming against her own daughter, the heir to the throne.

Enter Alexander's old flame, now a daring aviatrix; and his boyhood schoolmate, a receded thaumaturge whose powers may not have receded as much as he claims. Together, they must save Lac-Carge and its princess from the queen's army of walking dead.

Join Alexander, Chloe and Hugh as they battle against everything the queen and her thaumaturgical allies can muster.


Join my mailing list to be kept up to date and to receive a free short story!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Happenings

What's happening in my life


A new novel


I'm putting a few final flourishes on a new novel, to be published next week! It's a steampunk/gaslamp fantasy, entitled The Quays of Lac-Carge. More details to come soon.


Travel: My Inspiration


We're getting ready to go to Yosemite for about three weeks in October. Despite living in California for several years, I've not been to Yosemite yet. I'm so excited to see what other people rave about. I'm an avid hiker, although I definitely feel content to stand on terra firma to watch rock climbers ascend sheer cliffs.

This is a scene from one of my favorite hiking trail near Oak Glen, CA.
I hope to be seeing a lot of the russet California autumn colors soon.


Current writing

I'm currently working on two novels at the same time. I've never done this before, but it's really working out. One is a science fiction novel with lots of space travel, and the other is fantasy with an alternate history twist. In general, my writing is split pretty evenly between the two genres. In the past, when writing a fantasy novel I'd usually stop in the middle to write at least one science fiction short story, and vice versa.

Although some people who this happens to may say that they get tired of one genre and have to move to the other, I prefer to think of it as I love both so much that I can't stay away from either one for long.

This time, as I work on two novels at once, I'm finding it so motivating to be able to go from one to the other. As of right now, though, I'm really going strong on the science fiction novel, and if it continues as it's going now I'll finish it before I return to the fantasy novel.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Saving It All For Later...


...or, the Holding Your Cards Too Close To Your Chest Syndrome

Pocket Aces by John Morgan.
 Licensed under CC by 2.0. Edited from original.


When do you let out a choice detail in your writing? When it's absolutely needed, or when the reader wants it?

In my opinion, it's a fine line. A fine line that I sometimes fall off to one side or the other.

Sometimes a story does need some exposition at the beginning. Other times, the story demands that the details be portioned out carefully (mysteries and thrillers are classic examples).

"Readers want dirt, but they also want you to do the hard work of spreading it out and working it into their lawn for them."

One tendency I have noticed in my previous writing self is that when I had a unique idea or detail, such as a villain, I would sometimes try to show its effects well before I showed what it actually was. I used to think this was clever, or suspenseful. It does add suspense. Yet, my tendency was to reveal the details of that villain during the denouement. The problem with this strategy is that the denouement already has so much going on that the details I'd so carefully hoarded were somewhat lost in the excitement.

An assignment I've given myself in a novel I'm editing now, is to put those exciting villainous details into the narrative much earlier than I would naturally want to. There is no point in wasting my ideas I've so meticulously crafted.

All stories need structure. A truckload of details can't be dumped onto the front lawn of your story without consequences. Yet that same truckload of details also can't be hidden in the neighborhood for the frustrated reader to suss out. I guess where I'm going with this filthy metaphor is, that readers want dirt, but they also want you to do the hard work of spreading it out and working it into their lawn for them.

Where do you fall on the great reveal/hoard divide?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ephemera: Where the Story Begins


The germination of storywhere does it begin?



How does your story come to you? Does it gallop in out of nowhere?

Hangaku Gozen by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi


Does it begin with an image, a flash of insight, a half-remembered dream?

Viking Woman Warrior by Hans Splinter.
Licensed under CC by 2.0. Cropped from original.


Does it begin when you are passionate, relaxed, ecstatic, miserable?

Does this describe your mood when you've thought of a new story idea?


These are most common ways that the magic of story germination happens for me:

  • A storyline stays in my conscious mind from a dream or a half-dream
  • A complex idea pops into my relaxed, contented mind, seemingly from nowhere
  • A striking image will inspire a character or a situation



A perfect example of this phenomenon is the story J.K. Rowling tells of how Harry Potter popped, fully formed, into her mind. That's the magic of inspiration at work, one which built a real-world story empire.

All of these flashes or situations need narration built upon them, which becomes the conscious mind's work. After I've received these inspirations, I love to let them germinate in my mind for a few days before I even write them down. While they're still thoughts in my head, I feel like the story has infinite possibilities. Writing the words down seem like they take on a permanence that concretizes them into a certain shape.

I can explain how I get inspiration. Yet, these flashes of inspiration themselves are the magic—the ephemera, if you will—that is inexplicable. It's the unconscious mind at work in ways that we can never predict or control.

I'd love to hear about how your story germinations take place.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Small Challenges

Why Challenging Other Writers Can Be Great For Productivity


WiFi at Moulin de la Galette by Mike Licht.
 Licensed under CC by 2.0. Thought bubble added to original.

Are you in the middle of a project (or even at the beginning of one) and you just can't seem to get yourself into a writing groove?

Enlist your writing friends to help by challenging them to a word-count goal! Say, 1,000 words per day for one week, or perhaps 2 hours of editing time per day... whatever works for your project and your schedule.

Not only will you have the edge of competitiveness added to your work, but you will also have your friend's support and encouragement as you proceed in the challenge.

This can even work cross-discipline, as in, you don't have to both be writers. You can have a goal of 1,000 words per day, and your artist friend can commit to work on her painting for 1 hour per day. Anything goes in the search for inspiration.

Over the past few weeks, I've been distracted by vacation and visiting relatives. To combat my dwindling writing production, I challenged one of my friends. Both of us committed to write 1,000 words a day for one week. We're both doing great. The best part? I'm going to count this blog post as part of my daily word count!

But, you say, what if you're in the middle of a creative person's desert? If you're the only writer you know IRL, you can always find a community of writers online. Try such sites as WritersCafe or Goodreads. Or you could always challenge yourself, and promise yourself a reward at the end of your successful challenge.

For most of us, a challenge will get our competitive nature going, and the more successful days strung together, the less willing we are to break that chain of success. Anything that spurs us to write is a good thing, and sometimes enlisting other writers is the best motivator of all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Inspiration: It's Everywhere

These are some things that inspire my writing.


Reading

Reading and writing are inextricably linked for me

New books are always being written, thankfully. I am constantly amazed and gratified about how many books there are available in the English language. I feel happiest when I have at least 3 or 4 books in my queue that I am really excited about reading.

Sometimes reading a really great book will inspire my writing intensely.


Travel

Different locations are always inspiring. I love travel, and I love to put my characters into new situations and new landscapes. It's always interesting when they come across something they've never experienced. What will they do? They don't know, and neither do I most of the time!

From the oceans off the west coast of the U.S.A.... 

...to the red southwestern deserts...
...to the verdancy of the east...
...to the grandeur of old European cities, it's all inspiration for me.

After a childhood and early adulthood of no travel, over the last several years I have been lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit. Whenever I do, I keep a part of my mind aware and open for inspiration. It could be anything, from a building with interesting architecture, to someone with an interesting personality, to a grand landscape. Anything is fodder for me.


Fellow Book Lovers

Fellow book lovers unite!

Every time I can talk with someone about books (either virtually or in person) I feel great inspiration. There's nothing like finding a fellow book lover whose life is informed and enriched by fiction.


For me, inspiration can be found anywhere. These are three of my favorites. I'd love to hear about yours.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear: A Review


Karen Memery kicks some Old West butt.

Elizabeth Bear’s newest novel is a steampunk romp through the fictitious northwest U.S. town of Rapid City.

The obvious star of this novel is the title character, Karen Memery. Her voice is fresh and immediate, and draws you in from the very first lines:

You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery… and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity street. “Hôtel” has a little hat over that o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.

Delightful, fresh takes on steampunk tropes include steam-powered mechas; rootin’-tootin’ ladies of the night seamstresses-cum-U.S. Marshal deputies; and mind control.

Bear’s skillful narrative style, tight plot and fertile imagination bring us along effortlessly. Through Karen’s eyes, we see the crazy jumble caused by Rapid City’s hasty growth, the unregulated west, quite a few crazy mechanical inventions, and backdoor political maneuverings.

As I would expect from an Elizabeth Bear novel, these Rapid City women don’t wait for the U.S. Marshals to save their city, although they happily greet them as allies. Yet this book is not stuffed full of gun-toting women whose only purpose is to wield a six-shooter and belt back a shot of rot-gut. Bear’s main characters are fully realized with the ability to surprise the reader.

Though I truly enjoyed this novel, one thing disappointed me: the tired plot device known as the prostitute serial killer. In my opinion, any additional urgency this plot device engendered, its location in the story arc of the novel, and the satisfaction of the eventual discovery of the protagonist did not warrant its inclusion into what was otherwise a truly original tale.

In short, I give this book 4.8 out of 5 stars.

If you are looking for a fast read during your summer vacation, this book is one to put on your reading list.

Elizabeth Bear








Title: Karen Memory
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Publisher: Tor Books (February 3, 2015)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dialogue: Do All Your Characters Sound The Same?

Don't Put Your Readers To Sleep!
Image by artist Steve Lambert.


Character One: "How are you this morning?"
Character Two: "I am fine, how are you?"
Character One: "I am fine as well. Did you sleep well?"
Character Two: "Why, yes, I did. How about yourself?"
Character One: "I slept fine as well."
Character Three: "Hello, how are you both this morning?"
Character One: "I am fine, how are you?"

Reader: Zzzzzzzz.


There's a disease in the world of fiction—or even non-fiction—that plagues some writers. It seems that all their characters sound the same.

The same inflection, sentence structure, vocabulary. Even if slang is used, it is all the same slang words, used by all the characters interchangeably.


"Allow your characters to speak for themselves!"

Having all your characters speak the same is just as if you were having them all look the same or have all the same interests and opinions. Why is this acceptable?

The answer, of course, is it's not acceptable! A skilled craftsperson will be so adept at writing dialogue unique for each character, that she will not even need dialogue tags half the time, because readers will know exactly who is speaking by the carefully crafted dialogue itself.

A true master of this craft is the author Jan Karon. Her characters for her Mitford series are almost all uniquely identified by their dialogue alone.

Here is a sample of her dialogue, in which I've taken the liberty of editing out dialogue tags and some narration:

"Dearest?"
"Ummm?"
"Shall we bring the armoire over this Saturday?"
"This Saturday, I'm taking you for a little... recreation."
"I love recreation! What are we going to do?"
"It'll be a surprise."
"Good! I love surprises!"
"What don't you love?"
"Exhaust fumes, movies made for TV, and cakes baked from mix."

In this long series (up to ten novels at this writing), there are two central characters. The first character is a stick-in-the-mud bachelor of 60-odd years. The second is an artist, a lover of life, an embracer of new things. In the dialogue above, it is easy to understand which character is which.

Karon takes these traits and weaves them into her dialogue, revealing and strengthening her characters', well, characters! One of her more masterful talents is to establish her two central characters' conversational habits, and track their evolution. As an example, at the beginning of their relationship the bachelor—Tim—is fascinated by the artist's—Cynthia's—joie de vivre. She often proclaims her love for whatever is going to happen or is happening in her life. As the novels progress, Tim will respond to her proclamations of love by saying, "Cynthia, Cynthia, what don't you love?" and she will answer by listing three things she doesn't love (as in the example above, exhaust fumes, TV movies and cake mixes).

Karon's minor characters also have had this care and attention lavished upon them. Each one has unique sayings that belong to themselves alone. If you listen, you'll hear this proclivity in your own real life acquaintances. What better way to develop your characters than to individualize their speech patterns?

That said, this is not the easiest craft to master. Dialogue is almost effortless to write when our characters think and speak like ourselves. Allowing your characters to speak in their own voices takes patience and familiarity with their personalities and quirks. Most of all, it takes the willingness to get out of your characters' way.

Individualized dialogue takes work, but the worth to your readers is almost immeasurable. It will make all your characters seem like personal friends (or enemies!) It's another way to get your readers to trust you with their reading time and energy. Allow your characters to speak for themselves, and they may surprise you with their individuality.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Narrative: Do You Overuse It?

Does This Character Frequent Your Fiction?

Narrative! It's very useful in its place, but as SF/F fans we've all read those behemoths whose narrator is the most prevalentand the most boringcharacter in the novel.

Don't get me wrong; I love detailed, long, involved novels. However, length shouldn't be a license to spew every detail of every happening in every country or planet of your universe all over the page. Instead, length should be used to develop your actual characters and reveal the plot.

"You don't have to hit your readers over the head with a huge iron chunk of narration to prove you've thoroughly conceived your world."

So, how to know if you're overutilizing The Evil Narrator?

Well, take a look at your first chapter, especially your first several pages. Are there huge chunks of paragraph? Is there no dialogue in sight? Then you may be overusing narrative. When does your MCor any charactershow up? If your answer is the first page, then you are probably getting right to your story. If there's no character for your readers to engage with, then you may want to rethink your first chapter approach.

In some ways, especially at the beginning stages of writing a novel, I find narrative to be easiest to write. I will sit down at the keyboard and out comes all this detail. It's fascinating, and I have a great time writing it, but in the end most of this narration is never used in the finished work. I'll either reveal the details in dialogue and action, or I'll keep it in mind to explain the structure of the world.

If you are confident in the structure and sense of your own SF/F world, your readers will trust you. You don't have to hit them over the head with a huge iron chunk of narration to prove you've thoroughly conceived your world. The most amazing novels are ones where the details of the worlds are revealed throughout the entire novel or novels. This takes patience and aforethought.

An example of excellence in world- (or galaxy-) building is Jack Vance's Oikumene. This galaxial structure is revealed throughout the five Demon Princes novels he wrote over the course of 17 years. A specific example of Vance's patience is the Rigel Concourse: 26 habitable planets orbiting the sun Rigel. Since such a solar system is probably impossible even in our vast galaxy, Vance explains it by saying that the planets were towed into perfect orbits by some advanced, now-vanished race. Yet, instead of instantly telling us ad nauseam about all the planets in the Concourse, he saves details of many of them for subsequent novels.

This patience can also be a gift to you, the writer. By leaving a few, choice details nebulous in your own mind, you can have the luxury of filling in those informational gaps with details that will best suit your evolving story.

Narration. Is it fun to write? Yes of course! All that creativity without the bossy characters getting in there and mucking around messing things up. Is it necessary? Yes, at some points narration is definitely vital. Yet, it's better to use characters and action to reveal most details of your well-conceived world rather than having your narrator brag all about it. Narration is best when it's a minor character.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Flashback: Keeping it 'Offpage'

This is the third post in a series entitled Backstory: You Need It More Than Your Readers Do



Yes, flashbacks can actually be useful!

Yes, here is that dreaded word, flashback!


And yes, I think it can be used to advantage in stories. Especially in SF/F where the backstory is huge and sometimes crucial to what is going on in the present.


I do use flashbacks, sometimes as a character's musings about the past, less often as an actual flashback plopped into the story (this is the least effective and smooth option, in my opinion, but also useful at certain points). The most elegant solution, though is employing a flashback the way it naturally occurs in your own daily life.


Does this ever happen to you? You're walking down the street with a friend. You see a car parked on the side of the street that looks exactly like the first car you owned. Suddenly you're transported to the past for a full five minutes, remembering the first time you drove alone, that sense of freedom you gained when you were able to go wherever you pleased, or that time you ran out of gas. Meanwhile, your friend is standing there bored out of his skull because you're immersed in your flashbackimmobile, unresponsive, lifeless. Does it?


Well, of course not. This doesn't happen in real life. Why should it in your novels?


What really happens:


Tim and Helen were walking down the street one evening in June, on the way to their favorite pizza place. Helen paused beside a rusted Pontiac, shaking her head and smiling.

"What's up?" Tim asked.


"That's the same as my first car," Helen said, motioning with her chin.


"It's an old beater."


"No kidding. Once I got pulled over for driving without a back license plate. Turns out the bolts had rusted through and the plate fell off without me noticing. My dad had put the fear of God into me about never being pulled over, and yet here I was being cited. Don't laugh! It wasn't funny."


"Yes ma'am." He made a mock serious face.


She nudged his arm with her shoulder. "Come on. I'm hungry."


This sample scene is relatively benign in its topic. Yet this technique could be used for all sorts of important reveals. Dialogue is a speedy way to reveal past events, for it's natural for people to talk to others about important things that happened in their past.

If your character is alone, though, or with people that she doesn't trust, then she can think about past events instead of speaking about them. However, to keep this from becoming a dreaded info-dump, it's crucial for your character to think about these past events in relation to what's going on in the present moment!



"The most elegant solution is employing a flashback the way it naturally occurs in your own daily life."

There are many ways to weave the past into the present in your novel or story. Honest to goodness flashbacks, however, are not always—and I would posit not usually—necessary. Revealing the past while keeping the immediacy of the present is always good writing.



Backstory: You Need It More Than Your Readers Do is a series of posts that will explore how much you need to know about your story versus how much you need to tell. It's that old show versus tell conundrum explored in a new way.

Danielle Ste. Just is the author of several short stories including The Forgottens and The Effect-Displacement Assassin. Her new novel, Lethe, is forthcoming.