Frowned Upon

Dear Readers:

 I’m learning that writing is a “trendy” business. Decades ago, a writer was allowed to move gently into the story, taking, oh maybe, fifty pages to get to the nitty gritty stuff. Now it’s all about rock-em, sock-em action from the opening sentence. And woe to the author whose first paragraph doesn’t build suspense or a first chapter that’s missing the blockbuster hook, the intriguing story problem, or a sunny forecast for the ending. Here’s another surprise: the current writing community frowns on backstory. Unfortunately, it’s been one of my favorite parts of a good novel. Several years ago, I blissfully read through fifteen opening pages of Empire Falls by Richard Russo, naively thinking his backstory provided the necessary groundwork for the soon-to-be revealed present action.  So I’ve learned to use historical devices such as flashback with caution. First, I make certain that it is the only mechanism that will efficiently get the information needed to my readers.  And I’ll be darn sure I add the necessary sensory triggers that start and end the entire mess. And I promise I will, as James Scott Bell advises, avoid overuse of the word “had.” So now that we have that all straight, when you read my book you will recognize my backstory for what it is and respect it. The plot thickens.

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