I don’t know if anyone has ever done this before but, here ya go… The Different Types of Fanfiction!
I probably left a few out, but these are the most common, compared to their base fiction’s canon plot. Enjoy! XD
The crack fic is enough for a reblog.
My favorite part is when authors write these themselves, and then you have a big, shiny, convoluted map that’s all canon.
About back story: My characters tend to have a lot of it, and I understand that this is a good thing. But I also have trouble /pacing/ it throughout the story so that the reader doesn’t get overwhelmed. And it just feels like I’m doing this: IjustlovemycharactersomuchandIwanttotellyoueverythingaboutthemrightawaysothatyoulovethemtooooooooooo. And yeah, that’s annoying and the reader will probably get a headache. So, do you have any tips for pacing character back story?Anonymous
When it comes to revealing backstories, I really think that less is more, and I’ll tell you why.
- Realism: Real people (and good characters) are complicated, multilayered, and have been living their own lives prior to when you met them. However, when you first meet someone, do they pour out their life story to you in a Scheherazade-like epic retelling? Not usually. Usually, you get to know them over time, and you learn new things when they come up in the time you spend together. In time, you may even know quite a lot about that person- but it takes time. Knowing about someone’s history, their childhood, and their current life is a mark of trust and a lot of time spent together. I can only claim to know a handful of people as well as you’d normally get to know the protagonist of a book.
In short- there’s a lot about characters and people that you don’t know. Trying to tell your audience ‘the whole story’ about someone will likely only cause you (and your reader) a headache. While they may learn a great deal about the character over the course of the narrative, they’ll learn it better in bits and pieces.
- Relevance to plot: While it’s good to throughly develop a character’s background for your own purposes, when you’re writing, ask yourself: Is this relevant to the story at hand, or would this be something that would be better placed in a prequel about that character (whether you intend to write one or not).
For example: If I’m telling you a story about how Pen and I got chased by a dog, it’s relevant that she’s scared of dogs after one treed her as a child, and would come up in the narrative naturally. It’s irrelevant that I had a bad experience with lemon popsicles as a child, and would feel out of place.
Additionally, your character will probably be developing and changing within the story- so the focus should be on how they’re becoming a different person than who they were in the times of their backstory. People evolve continually, so really, ‘backstory’ is kind of a broad term. Exceptions include purposefully static characters, characters who are caught in the past themselves, and the like.
- Finally, why it’s good to keep readers in the dark just a little bit: Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘show not tell’ approximately 10^23 times by now. But it applies here too! When possible, it really helps to try and demonstrate a character’s backstory, rather than tell it straight. Harking back to Pen and I’s hypothetical dog adventure- if she turns pale when we go by the dog park, the reader can infer that something happened in her past involving dogs. This in many ways is better than flat telling, because a block of telling backstory can be boring, but if you make it just enough of a puzzle, the reader will feel really clever for having figured out something about the character that wasn’t explicitly stated (and we want them to feel clever, it keeps them interesting). From there, you need to decide if the shown not told detail is a segue in to a written explanation, or a noodle incident. Segues are good if you need to do a lil bit of an infodump that’s relevant and important and all that to the plot. The trick is, keep the reader feeling clever. The ideal is that when you reveal that Pen has a crippling fear of dogs since she was five, the reader screams bloody murder about how they called it. When it comes to a noodle incident (a noodle incident being a past event that is frequently brought up, but not properly explained. ie, ‘Budapest’ in Avengers) the first rule is that is that you never explain the noodle incident. Instead,you let the readers draw their own conclusions or make their own theories, as they will almost invariably be disappointed with your answer. Decide which is better or more suited to your story.
some tips for you include:
- Reveal backstory in digestible lil bites
- Reveal those bites when they come up naturally
- Select which details are relevant to the story at hand, and which are irrelevant
- Try to ‘show not tell’ some parts of your character’s history
That’s it, hope it helps!
Sagging middles especially result when there is no increase in tension as the plot progresses. In the move towards the climax, your characters should face increasingly bigger obstacles and challenges. Things should get more complicated – never less. Characters should have more at stake as events unfold. The emotions should run higher and deeper. And each event should leave the reader more concerned about what will happen next.
Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure. (Or: infographics I want to hug.)
Graphic by Eduardo L. Lozano
Ugh so pretty
Plot develops out of conflict, either external, such as a person or an event that precipitates a series of actions the main character undertakes, or internal, driven by the protagonist’s wants and/or needs. How that character, and others, makes choices and otherwise responds to stimuli determines the course of events.
The traditional structure of a plot is linear, in which the protagonist’s actions are charted in a more or less straight line, although many stories shift from that person’s point of view to that of one or more other characters as the tale progresses. Others involve one or more flashbacks, introducing new elements to the overarching plot.
In one sense, there are innumerable stories; looking at storytelling another way, various analysts have discovered variable finite numbers of basic plots (such as the quest, which is ubiquitous in all genres), though these types have a seemingly infinite number of variations, as a visit to any large bookstore or library will attest. But stories almost invariably follow a simple pattern, in which rising action propels the protagonist through a series of complications that result in a climax, followed by the falling action of the resolution.
At this point, the character, or at least the character’s circumstances, have changed, though most readers (and writers) find it most satisfying if the character has experienced significant growth or change and has accomplished a palpable goal, such as a physical journey that has allowed the character to achieve some reward, or an intangible goal that still satisfies the reader’s desire for the protagonist to undergo a metamorphosis of some kind.
Writer Annie Lamott created a helpful mnemonic catechism, ABCDE, to help writers remember the basics. Here are the elements:
Plot Diagram – End your novel as soon as the goal is reached
Read more here
Anonymous asked fuckyourwritinghabits:
I have a huge chunk of backstory (ie boring but necessary stuff) in the first chapter, but the story I’m writing needs the audience to understand the situation before getting into the story. I can’t think of any way to solve this (other than maybe putting it in a prologue, but a lot of people tend to skip prologues). Can you please help me?? Thank you.
I’ve been editing and reediting, trying to splice backstory into appropriate scenes, so I feel your point here, anon.
- First: on your first draft, put it where you want to put it, and go from there. Don’t let it hold you back from moving forward because you need it down and in the open in order to get where you’re going
- Second: Hold back as much as you can. Backstory is a tool for you to make a scene more effective, a dramatic reveal, or a mystery solved. The more you hold back for latter scenes, the more powerful you can make those scenes. This is not something you’re going to perfect on the first draft, or the second, or the third, but it is something you should keep in mind. Keep tweaking as you go.
- Third: It is okay to leave your reader questioning. Some backstory is going to be on the cutting room floor, sadly. You need to decide (or get a second opinion!) on what’s important and what’s not. The writer is always going to know more about the character than the reader will, and that’s good, because it gives the reader room to imagine.
- Fourth: Consider alternative ways to dump backstory. Backstory told through a conversation can be very powerful, if done right. It can be told through letters, dreams, or media. Zoo City does a really cool thing with news story clippings inserted between chapters. Don’t hesitate to be creative with your backstory!
Most books rely on backstory to move the story forward, certain genres over others. You could check out The Reapers Are The Angels for zombie horror, God’s War for sci-fi, Beknighted for urban fantasy. Swamplandia deals with the backstory straight-off, hooking the reader in with where it will go from there.* Mostly, though? Go with what feels right, and write from there. You’ll have plenty of chances to make it perfect. Good luck, anon!
*(Swamplandia contains a sexual assault, which I wish books would warn more about, but don’t.)
Sometimes you want to write, but you have no plot ideas. Perhaps your fingers are itchy to write, you want to meet a submissions deadline, a character is bugging you to tell their story, or a single image, phrase, or scene is sitting heavy in your head. But you still can’t find the whole story.
So what can you do?
- Start with characters: find their names, their backstories, their relationships. Create detailed descriptions, draw them, build their family trees. Get them interracting, put them into a room together, or bump them into each other in the street. Read their diaries, their love letters, their bank statements. Get to know them inside out. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a world: create your map, name the towns, lakes, forests, and mountains. Work out the trade routes, position the markets, the ports, and the industry. Find the history, predict the future. Draw out the borders, bring war, re-draw the borders. Get down to street level and see who lives there. Walk the streets yourself. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a room: stand in the middle of a room and open your eyes. What does the room look like? What’s in it? How many doors and windows are there? What is the room used for? Who uses it? What has happened here, and what is going to happen here? This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with an object: pick something up into your hand. What is it? What is it used for? Who owns it, and who owned it before them? What is it worth, either monetarily or sentimentally? Has it been lost, found, stolen, given away? Why is this object important? This is one place where you may find your story.
Seriously, click the link and go read the article. Seriously.
Also, check out our post on the Hero’s Journey and monomyth!