The Julius Chronicles: Backstory

by RS on July 14, 2009

Yesterday aftenoon and evening I spent about 6 hours adding new content to Julius. Most of it was backstory and I would say that I spent a good two hours researching what I was writing about.  As the story stands, I would say I have written about 25 percent backstory, and I have a feeling that the experts who teach novel-writing might say that I’m dragging down my story. I don’t know whether I agree with them or not.

I’m one of those people who likes history. When I read about a current event, I want to know what happened previously. For example, you really can’t understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if you don’t go back to the late 1940s and learn about the establishment of Israel (and if you want to dig deeper get into the whole history of the Holocaust).

So it’s no surprise that I like backstory in a novel. I think it fleshes out the characters and it gives the current story more nuance, but when is backstory too much?  I kept asking myself this all last night when I was writing  a new scene that goes back into the narrator’s days as a graduate student.

The theme of this new chapter is about obstacles or as she calls them ‘distracters.’  A new obstacle that appeares in her life is her former professor and lover. I spent at least two hours sketching the scene and then suddenly I found myself researching Marx’s concept of the Alienation of Labor that he wrote about in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Yikes! What was I thinking? What I was thinking was to let the reader know that Corinne is no slouch when it comes to Marxist theory and that this lover will at the end of the relationship ridicule and dismiss her as “an altruistic throwback of the 1930s.”

So the big question is how to streamline Alienated Labor in a neat sentence or two without compromising Corinne’s intellect and offering enough of explanation that won’t leave readers confused?

I guess I’ll figure it out . . . .

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