by Peggy Bechko
Do you think about story? Do you write every day? Have you devoured every book on how to write scripts, novels, whatever, that comes out?
Well, this is going to be a very opinionated (mine) piece on storytelling, how it’s done and what it does to people. Don’t panic, it’s going to be fairly short.
Now, I can’t tell you how many people tell me, oh, I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t need to outline, research or any of that stuff, I just sit down and write.
Well, not really. Here’s where my very strong opinion comes in. You don’t have to listen to me. Frankly it doesn’t matter to me one way or another if you do, but here it is.
Writing without any kind of preparation is, um, well, idiotic.
I’ve loved storytelling my entire life. Started when I was about ten in fact. Doubleday published my first novel when I was twenty-one. I’m still writing, rewriting, editing, publishing…etc. And, after all those years, here’s the way I see it.
Movies (screen scripts) and novels are entertaining, no doubt about it. But they’re not JUST entertainment. It’s not JUST the fact that both came before the age of computers and virtual reality. When you sit through a great movie or get engrossed in a fantastic novel you find yourself in sort of time warp in that time seems to cease to exist. We enter other realities. It’s magic!
And here’s the interesting part for writers. We learn so much about story about story arcs, how to get there, how to create a story. There are books written on the subject, so many books, and yes, here I am writing about it as well.
Most of them are wrong.
Am I right? You decide.
I focus in on what is it in a story that makes the person wrapped up in a movie or a novel have to know what happens next. Everything follows that.
Really, do you want to spend your time breaking down structure? Is structure what it’s all about?
Is it possible that if you just follow the ‘pattern’ of a popular script or novel that you’ve really enjoyed and connected to that duplicating that pattern will produce a great story.
In my strong, personal opinion neither in depth plotting nor flying by the seat of your pants is the way to create great stories. I mean you may have a very good plot – but do you really have a story?
So here’s my big take-away. Backstory is your backbone. In a novel it’s pretty easy to weave it in, more difficult in a script. But, remember Faulkner’s statement, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even the past.” Yep, there it is. You need backstory whether you put it all in the book or script or not. It needs to exist,
Think about currently popular books like Game of Thrones (and the series) and Vikings the series. Those are stories. They’re about something. The characters are real because of backstory, both that which is told and that which is implied.
Yes, you need to follow form to present the story, but the STORY is key and key to the up front story is backstory. Know your characters and what makes them tick. Know what happened in the past (which isn’t actually the past according to Faulkner) that drives them to do what they do and find a way direct or indirect to use that backstory to grab your reader.
Stop reading all those books dissecting story structure and get in there and create your own.
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.