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Backstory hopscotch

13 Jan

In a previous post, I spoke about keeping your “readers eye”. At first I didn’t understand that, but now I believe I do. A reader reads because they enjoy the stories. I writer writes because they love telling stories.

Each author has their own “voice” and each voice is independent of the author. I think using the voice analogy it would be better to use “readers ear”. A reader builds a story in their mind. Their imagination listens to the writer speaking through their voice, and build what the writer describes through their writing.

Each reader is as different as each writer. Their “mental ears” may only hear one type of story that resonates with them. A writer may write in different genres, but a reader only enjoys one or two stories that resonate with their nature and mind.

Using that analogy of resonating with the reader, consider a beat in music. The same is true for music, many people only like one or two different kinds of music. While a much smaller group like many different kinds of music, though thankfully, that smaller group is getting bigger.

Using the beat analogy, consider the way music is written or developed. Every bit of music has a beat, so do stories. Various scenes have a different beat. For instance a grandmother rocking on a porch telling a story of days gone by, is a much slower beat than an army of orcs attacking a dwarven stronghold.

A written story has a flow. That flow is dependent on the beat of the scene, all that’s involved in that scene, and a combination of scenes.

Writing a large storyline is like composing a symphony. You need to be able to consider the entire orchestra melding together, and how those instruments combined will enhance or clash.

In a way it’s much harder for a writer than a composer, as you can’t always read multiple characters at the same time, the way you can listen to multiple instruments.

E.E. Knight did an excellent job in my opinion, in the wheel of fire series, of weaving the back story into character development. Also the first three novels in the series focused on one of three main characters. These three main characters started off together in the beginning of book one, and separated very quickly, following three very different paths that helped build the world of the story.

In book four, he kept a nice pace when switching back and forth between these three main characters. Each section devoted to a character, whether it was one or five chapters, began slow, built to a crescendo, then faded off again before switching characters, doing it all over again.

What happened there, was a flow kept up, within the overall flow of the story. Too many times, authors switch prematurely from a character, cutting off a flow they built up. This can feel lurching to a reader, while the author doesn’t realize as they are focused on the overall story playing out in their head.

You never ever want to switch characters after a big cliffhanger at the end of a book. Cliffhangers at all are tricky to do right anyway. Switching to another character while leaving another hanging off a cliff annoys readers to no end.

So, to all the writers out there from someone who still enjoys reading, don’t play hopscotch with your characters and story flow. Make a symphony of words.

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