Tag Archives: Stephen King

Backstory And Worldbuilding Are Writing Too

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Worldbuilding is essential to speculative fiction and other genres as well. If we cannot create a plausible, yet fantastical world for our story to live in, we risk losing the attention of our audience. However, there is a strong tendency out there to focus more on building up the fictional world than to write a compelling story. We look at the masters of fiction we admire and say, “I want to write something like that.”

I’m no different. Since I was a teen, I’ve admired the worldbuilding of Frank Herbert for his Dune series. What I (and probably other fledgling writers) have to remember is Herbert had been writing published fiction for almost TWO DECADES before he wrote the first Dune novel.

Developing character backstories are also essential while writing fiction. We research and write the elements of a character’s backstory for important reasons. It helps us learn what motivates people. It informs realistic choices in the character’s story. It lends additional writing experience. To a point, it even helps us get closer to finishing our stories.

But never, not even once, assume that this information is vital to the story.

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.

― Stephen King

The goal of writing fiction is to provide words that will hopefully enlighten and entertain our readers. If we can attain those two things, we’ve done our job as writers.

What we have to do to tell a compelling story, at least in the beginning, is narrow our scope and vision. Work in worlds that we understand more intuitively. Write characters who’s motivations we can easily comprehend. By all means, create amazing, incredible worlds and histories for characters. Just don’t do that at the expense of finishing things.

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

― Neil Gaiman

All those arguments aside, try writing backstory and worldbuilding as exercises in storytelling. Tell the story of a character’s past. Tell a story of an event that helped forge the world into what is is today. I’ve done some of this, and would never share the results with anyone. Still, I think it has aided in my quest to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading, all! There probably won’t be an installment of Rue From Ruin this week. Allergies have really bogged me down recently. I promise to have it to you as soon as possible.

Please enjoy this GIF as compensation:

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Quotable Quote: Stephen King Edition

Stephen-King

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Disclaimer: I’ve yet to buy or read this book by Mr. King.

Don’t let that fool you. Every quote I’ve read or heard from On Writing causes outcries in my brain, “You need to study this book and internalize all of its goodness! NOW.”

Guess what my next book purchase is going to be?

The theme that Mr. King expresses so well in the quote above is that my writing is first and foremost for me or my children or my wife. No one else. There should be only one distinct person I’m writing for as I’m drafting something new, and it should be someone very close. And that is the lesson I still have to get through my thick skull.

Revisions are for other the rest of you. I’ll get to those; first I have to finish!

Late addition: I’ve just bought On Writing. Excited!