"Back-story consists of events that occurred prior to the start of a film: childhood traumas, recent crises, longstanding grudges, the history of the physical setting, and much more. Back-story should be revealed obliquely through casual, but efficient, cues. A woman seen in a Chanel suit at the unemployment office will quickly bring the viewer up to date on a life that recently underwent dramatic change... A man storms out on his wife in the midst of an argument, and she hurls a high-heeled shoe at him. The shoe hits the door, and a dozen heel marks are seen on the door as it slams shut." (101 Things I Learned in Film School; Neil Landau with Matthew Frederick)
This past week I've pondered back-story -- a lot -- as I commence the next step of parsing PURE to its essentials. Yes, I completed the first draft of PURE this past week (it clocks in at a pithy -- for me -- 95,000 words), but even as I penned the two ultimate words -- the end -- I knew where my manuscript needed massive liposuction, as well as the flimsier sections requiring a boob job.
In my gigs as beta-reader and editor, I've read a lot of stories. Those which don't make the cut usually fail in their ability to find the story quickly. Not wallowing in back-story is important in novels, but especially important in flashes, where one hundred words -- the typical length of an opening paragraph -- describing setting, a divorce, a sibling rivalry, the day job fritters away TEN PERCENT of the story.
So think economy. Think parachute drop. Think getting in as soon as you can. When in doubt, Start Late.
Reading... THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen. Wickedly funny and poignant all at once. How can he know my family so well?