Reception in the Middle of Nowhere

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(watchtower)

Is she always there
Standing over me
Watching as the seasons change
Over some sleepy, wondering sea
Across her face and beneath her eyes
Is always the same wistful gaze
Reflections floating like young waves
Crashing just to show their size
The air gets dry
As the music grows dreamy
Synth sounds and electric emotions
As my head gets heavy beneath me
Roads pass by
And signs grow far out of distance
The radio changes with the reception –
Before we hit the chorus
And I sit looking out the rearview mirror
The radio tower lights blinking at me
Like a watch tower searching for a signal
And I wonder
If I might’ve left it on the interstate
And that’s why the music sounds so abysmal
And the static that crackles is its own accusatory finger
Blaming me for not trying harder
To get it back

What’s Left of What Was Said

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I sit beside the crowds of people I see everyday
Yet cannot bring myself to recognize
I don’t understand a single word they say
But Lord, how I try
Perching in the rafters above the rumble of empty words
Faces that don’t mean a thing to me
I look over the scape and I don’t understand what I’ve heard
Stuck like a piece of twine between two adjacent trees
Across it all
What matters at all
Is the fading permanence of it all
Imprints in the sand just meant to fade
Collide and walk away
Fiercely in love
With the concept of numbered days
And trying to walk back down roads already once tread
Picking up the pieces of what’s left in the dust
Picking up what’s left of what was said

 

Sitting in the back seats as the cameras roll
And the seasons shift
Everyone knows how to brace for the cold
But I still can’t manage to patch this rift
Sitting between us from across the vine
I can’t tell what we’re trying to repair
Where I am, I can only try to find the time
To try to see where the next blow is going to hit
To stand alone and wait for the world to forget
A world full of cotton stuffed people
Around me sits a sea of ingenue
Perching in the shadow of some forgotten steeple
How can flesh and blood relate to felt and sinew?
They know better than I what they’re trying to get
Desperately in love with what they can introspect
And what they’ll be able to forget
They all think we’re all just left for dead
Left holding the broken strings of their marionette
Left with what’s left of what was said

You and I – there isn’t any time
Before the buttons get stitched over our eyes
And we sit up in the middle of the night, alone from our separate beds –
Dreaming about what’s left of what was said

Generic Pop-Punk Love Song

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Oh, if only I could play the guitar
Strum a little tune for you
If only I could sing
This wouldn’t be a poem
You’d have to read
If only I could write
An angsty anthem of the night
That I knew that I loved you
This could be some heavy
Punk rock melody
And you could sing along
To your generic pop-punk love song…

If only this began with some bass
And a kick-ass drum solo
I’d be able to start crooning about a life without you
Is a life full of woe
I could tell you that I love you
With every raging word
And yell obvious metaphors to describe how much I miss you
Like I was Mark Hoppus
And this was Blink-182

I’d hide my desire to sing awkward, nervous lyrics
Behind those heavy pounding drums
In every catchy, stupid chorus
Every song would have some long, irrevelent title
That still turns out to be irrefutably clever
Like “Being in love with you is like having a cold, and baby, I’m under the weather”
And you’d hear the song, and think “Man, that title made no sense.”
But hey, honey –
I’m no Pete Wentz

But I don’t know how
To use a whammy bar
I can’t show you
The frets on a guitar
I’m no Billy Joe –
No punk rocker, I know –
I don’t know how to serve up a killer chorus
Or sing a song to you from the bleachers
Like an impromptu movie performance
I just know that I
Never want to say goodbye
And I just want to try
for you.

But who knows if I’d have any success?
Maybe it’s just a waste of time
Perhaps I’ll just end up on the floor
Chiming in, asking for someone to shut the damn door –
I don’t want there to be any misconceptions
You really are the only exception
One might even say you’re my paramore

But I can’t play the guitar
To make a melody for you
And I don’t know how to sing a song
That can stop you from feeling blue
I just know that I love you
And I don’t want to be without you

So I don’t care if it’s a generic pop-punk love song that does the trick
I really think you and I click
Or even a bit of quirky indie rock
I love you and I won’t stop
So words to a poem
Or lyrics to a song
I hope you can still sing along
To your generic pop-punk love song

NaNoWriMo Final Update – Wrap Up and Wind Down

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Hello, everyone! Welcome to December – the last month of the year is upon us, and NaNoWriMo has concluded.
I apologize for the lack of posts, but due to my actual job, the holiday, and the amount of writing I had to try to make up… I didn’t have any time to write anything besides my story.

So, this is my NaNoWriMo final update, and that calls for the question… how did I do? DID I make it?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know, but yes! I won NaNoWriMo for the first year, clocking in at 50,043 words on the 29th.
My shirt has been ordered, and I’m breathing sighs of relief everyday. It was long, tiring, and hard work – but also exhilarating, exciting, and the kick in the ass I needed to get a story I had been planning for three years written.
It was completely worth it, every word, every day, every night spent working until the morning sun churning out page after page… I wouldn’t give it up for anything. And you can definitely count me in for NaNo 2015.

As for my story, ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’, it in of itself isn’t finished. I have surpassed the 50k, but I still have approximately six-seven chapters left to write. I’m edging towards the finale, and I’m excited to see exactly how it’s going to turn out.

…But I’m taking a break, for now. I’m planning on a week or two of vacation before I buckle down and finish it up. I plan to have it completed before Christmas, edited by mid January, and passed around to a few people for test reads shortly there after. The completed book itself, if everything goes to plan, will be released in May.

Until then, though, I’ll keep everyone updated on Twitter and on Thursdays here with progress. I’ll release a proper synopsis, share some character information, and might even release the first few chapters for reading.

I’m very excited for this novel. It isn’t my first fiction story, but my first full length fiction novel. And I love the genre, and I’m enjoying this world so much, you know? It’s really a fun place to be, and to write about, and the characters are simply fantastic. I feel like they’ve taken a life of their own, I don’t even have to think anymore, just place my fingers on the keyboard and let them whisk me away.

In short… it’s going well.

So to all the other winners, I want to give them a round of applause and wish them the best with their novel. And to the ones who wrote a single word, but perhaps didn’t win… I want to give them a round of applause and wish them the best with their novel.
Whatever you wrote, it’s that much more than you had before. And it takes a lot of brains, guts, and caffeine tolerance to start a novel, let alone write it, and complete it.
If you didn’t win, just remember that the next NaNoWriMo is only a year away. If 2015 is anything like 2014, it’ll just fly by.

And that’s about it for today. Because of the weird posting date, I will be skipping my usual Tuesday post and pick back up again Thursday, and everything will continue like normal from there.
Have a good day, a good week, and I’ll talk to you on Thursday.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 1:09 AM

NaNoWriMo Week #3 – Race to the Finish Line

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Another week gone by! Last week we discussed the eventual brick wall of NaNoWriMo, the writer’s block and lack of enthusiasm that was once had.

Although things haven’t picked up to the point it was at the beginning of the month, work has gotten done, writing has been accomplished, and I’m happy to announce that I have achieved the goal I set for myself last week, clocking in at the time of this post at 35, 206 words and 173 pages!
Ten days to do fifteen thousand words… I can assure you, it will be achieved!

After NaNoWriMo, the book will still be in production.  As I’ve said before, the event is to get you writing something, not necessarily the next great American novel. So once the framework is completed, the first bout of revisions and edits will take place. Making sure everything flows well, the character and plot development steady and understood, and grammatical mistakes brought down to a minimum.
After that, I’m going to release it to a test group of sorts. Men and women of different ages so I can get a glimpse into the opinions of a broad range of people.

But as of now, the writing is going well. It has been a bit scattered, I’ll admit, and it certainly hasn’t remained constant. There will be days where I don’t write at all – but usually I can come back the next day and power through a few thousand.
If everything goes according to plan, I’d like to have five thousand written collectively today and tomorrow, than on Saturday do a 10k sprint to the finish line.
Of course, plans change, and your level of determination fluctuates, but I know it can be done.

All of my characters have been (hopefully) well established, I think I’ve got a unique personality set for each of them, and a good broad range at that. Chapter after chapter, I am truly enjoying see the events unfold in front of me – although it is my fingers typing, it doesn’t my brain has caught up to the ideas. It is amazing how you can surprise yourself with your own twists!
Also, to breathe another bit of “realism” into your characters, if you own one of the Sims games, try to create your characters in the editor. It’s one thing to imagine them, but another to see them there in front of you. Although it will be more of a cartoon caricature of your character rather than your true vision, it’s a good little exercise.

Something I would like to mention before I close out, is that yesterday I came across a very nice app that may be of interest. Write-O-Meter is an app that I got for my Android phone, not sure if it is on iPhone or not, but what it does is allow you to set a daily word goal, a complete, overall word goal, and a deadline to complete it by. Then it sets a timer, (automatically set to 25 minutes but it can be adjusted), in which you have to write in. You input your daily word count, and it motivates you to keep moving forward, with quotes from other writers and artists, a little reward system which I found rather arbitrary  and ignored for the most part, and plus it’s rather rewarding to keep track of your daily writing and see the word count grow.

The 30th is approaching quicker and quicker, and pretty soon we’ll blink and it’ll be here. It’s time to get cracking, buckle down and write faster than we have before. I believe today was the day to start validating your novel and win, so let that be your inspiration to get it down.
Good luck to all who are still writing as hard as they can, congratulations to all the current winners, and I hope to see everyone on the other side!

See you Thursday.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 3:04 PM

NaNoWriMo Week #2 – Playing Through the Pain

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Here we are again, Thursday and another NaNoWriMo update! We’re a little under halfway through – and it’s going well. Things are progressing at a decent rate, ideas are flowing if only at a trickle, and things are getting done.

As of now, my story The Bright Side to the Dark Arts is at 24, 313 words out of the 50k, and I’m at 97 pages. It’s by no means close to being finished, but I think my protagonist has been established well, I think my universe is being thoroughly explained, and I’ve introduced the main villains of the story. The story is doing well, but I’ve started to hit the one thing all NaNoWriMo participants know all too well:

The brick wall.

Excitement is running thin. The great big burst of energy you had at the beginning has depleted. Your ideas are either out, or you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
This happened to me this week. While I’m above the average word count at the moment, there are some days were I don’t write at all and that’s a problem.

Like I mentioned last week, this is really about quantity over quality. The quality control comes later, as of right now we just need to type words onto a document as fast as we can.
That doesn’t mean do whatever you can to make it good – it just means don’t try to stop and fix whatever you think has gone wrong. Go with the flow, write continuously and see where it takes you. After the event, if you still don’t like it you can make the necessary changes… just don’t let it slow you down during November.

But despite the extra effort it has started to take me to sit down and begin to write, I play through the pain. I need to finish this story, for myself, for NaNoWriMo, for the future of my writing career. Writers have one job: To write, and if I can’t do that then I’m kinda out of luck.
So I throw down words, and I come up with ideas from the top of my head, and I take the story places I didn’t think of going five minutes ago.

I give myself an amount of words, and I refuse myself sleep until I get that far. It may seem drastic, but desperate times call for despite measures, eh?
It may get harder by the day. As the hours fly by, as the days fall away, and as the weeks pass… you may grow more and more apathetic to the event.
I implore you to not let that happen. Write something brilliant. Re-find the magic that the story had a week ago. Find a way to fall back in love with your characters.
Remind yourself why you committed this in the first place. Remind yourself who you’re doing it for. And let that be the only thing that matters.

And if making actual additions to your story just isn’t working out, then get a sheet of paper, a pencil, and do some chapter plotting. Think of a couple ideas, make some plans, and see if you can turn that into some feasible later on. I know that chapter plotting and outlines can help me immensely in a down period of writing.

But one last tip… whatever you do, DON’T try to work on another story. This is the month to create one story, and immerse yourself in that world. If you try to go away from that, it’ll be even harder when you return. Let yourself be engulfed by that chosen universe, and make it as substantial and realistic as you can. It’s your world, you are the creator, so go do something great.

I’ll be back next Thursday for another update. My goal for next week? Hit 35k by the next update. If I can do that, everything will be great, and I think that it’s possible.
For more frequent updates, you can follow me at https://twitter.com/ThePlebianSheep.

Have a great day, a great week, and keep on writing!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:32 PM

NaNoWriMo Week #1 – Quantity over Quality

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Welcome to my first NaNoWriMo update! I plan on doing these once a week, usually on a Thursday, all way until the end of the month. Which means we’ll have four writing updates, and one final wrap-up on either the 30th of this month, or the 1st of the next.

So far, this first week has gone by brilliantly! This event truly gives me the inspiration to get a novel I’ve wanted done for a long time written and done. Before, I’d write here or there, but without much consistency or luck. I’ve been taught that as writers, our job is to simply write – and as of right now, that’s it.

I tend to be a perfectionists with somethings. Not everything, but especially things that I’ve had my hand in majorly, I’d like it to be as perfect as possible. And usually, if that means writing a couple of really good…sentences, rather than a few decent to mediocre pages, I usually go for it.
At NaNoWriMo, the goal isn’t for you to write the next great American novel, it is simply to get you to write. And everyday as I plow through a couple thousand words, I make sure to keep this in mind. If I want to go back after the event and tweak and edit and revise… that’s perfectly fine. Nothing is stopping me from making revisions to create a better and smoother story later on, NaNoWriMo is here to get you writing, to get that foundation set up. And as a long time procrastinator, and I’ll tell you… I’ll procrastinate with anything. Oh, I need to do laundry so I won’t be naked tomorrow? I’ll get it done in a couple of hours. Oh, I want to play some of that video game that I just bought? Eh, it’ll be there tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo is really helping me to get off my ass and get writing. Because what good is having any vague talent of anything if you don’t use it?

As of right now, my story, entitled ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’, has reached 15,884 words. On the sixth of the month, I think that’s pretty good. There is five sets of six days within the thirty-day month, and if I could replicate the success of these past view days within those… I would certainly be on the right track.
I’m already exceeding the ‘recommended’ word count the NaNoWriMo site gives you, but I don’t remember one person who hasn’t. Every thousand words written feel like a reward, and I’m excited for the rest of the month.
As I go on, it gets easier to forget about a section that might be a little lackluster at the moment and just keep writing. Because this event is about word count, the contents of your novel, at least right now, don’t matter as much. It’s a tough thing to learn just for this event, because anyone you’ve ever met tells you differently. And though they’re usually right, I find a quality short story to be eons better than a crap four hundred page story, just being able to write… to put pencil to paper, or in our case fingers to keyboard, matters a whole hell of a lot more at the moment. Because, if you don’t start to write, no matter how bad… then I can guarantee you, you’ll never get better.

It’s been early mornings and long nights, and I’m sure the further we delve into the month, the pots of coffee will increase as much as the hours of sleep will decrease.
And I’m looking forward to every day of it.

But before we end, I just wanted to a little update on my novel outside of the event. I’ve had ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’ planned out for a long time. It in fact was spawned through a story I had written in the eighth grade about a different character, but the same sort of urban fantasy setting. I’ve had character sheets and plot notes scattered around for a few years, but besides some tinkering that later got thrown in the trash, I’ve never taken the time to sit down and write it. NaNoWriMo has gotten me excited for my story again, and with all luck… after editing, I hope to have it out in May 2015 as my first fiction novel!
I am going to have more information on it as time goes by, synopsis, characters, and probably even a few chapters posted later this year.

So NaNoWriMo is going great, and the first week has definitely worked out. I’m excited for the days to come, and I’ll see you on Sunday for something not writing related.

Happy writing, everyone!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:34 PM

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/theplebeiansheep

 

The post that was about nothing

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DISCLAIMER – This post isn’t ACTUALLY about nothing. It is about something, or it would be a blank page. Thank you.

One of the hardest things I’ve discovered about blogging, is that most of the time in order to blog, you have to have something to blog about.
I’ve tried to incorporate a few things here, and not leave it just about my writing. I try to offer opinions and thoughts every couple days or show that may or not be read by the inter-web populace, and I try to doll them out in small portions because who wants a bunch of thoughts, idealist stances, and political/moral commentary from a sixteen year old? Now, what I talk about is a bit better then most sixteen year old’s, I’d like to think. But still, at my age, I only know so much and have a limited about of things to say.
That’s why I find it hard at times to decide on appropriate, moderately uncontroversial topics to write about.
When you’re writing a story, whether it be fiction from your head, or non-fiction research paper, you always have somewhere to go. You have your research to refer too, or you can just invent some new sub-plot to fill in gaps. (Not always advised, though.)
When you are speaking on daily or even weekly topics, it gets harder to find something interesting and compelling to say.
I try to stray away from current news or events, because everyone’s talking about them and has probably said whatever I was going to say. I could try and write a post about why I couldn’t care less about the World Cup. Firstly, I wouldn’t have much to say. Secondly, there are lots of people who feel the same, and probably have said something more intriguing then I would have. Lastly, I’d have a bunch people ready to punch me, or perhaps kick a soccer ball in my groin. Either way, I wouldn’t like that too much.

And because it is one of my bad habits, I try not to build a thought or post of a small idea or topic, due to RAMBLING. Because then, you have SO much to fill in, and I’m not good with bridging gaps. I need a LOT to say on the topic, or already have a strong opinion, or else I fall into the dreaded rut that is saying something over again, and saying it over again, and saying it again. Even though Led Zeppelin told me that it was okay to ramble on, and I find doing it quite easy, it is a terrible habit that I try to stray from.

But see here, with something like this, the post about nothing… there is now free space to ramble as much as I feel. Because a post about nothing… isn’t that ALL a ramble?
That’s sometimes why having a generic title is a good thing, especially if have the same problem as me.

Take my first post, for example. It was originally called, “Religion in Children.” I was going to talk about forcing religion down children’s throats, and making them believe in it without their own input. Eventually, that went from religion, to politics, to parental opinions, to me telling you how to parent your children.
After the first post, and a little of the second, I’ve learned a lesson to keep titles generic. If I had called this post, “The Difficulty of Choosing a Blog Topic”, that would have limited to me a bit. Now, it probably would have been fine in the long run, but by giving it the name it has, I have free rein to talk about what I want.

Movies? Music? Writing? The World Cup? All fine!
Because the title is all encompassing, and anything can be set into that post. Everything goes, everything works, and there’s no questions later.

My last point;
The difficulty of ending a post. Now, I do this in real life conversations, where I just end a conversation abruptly. Now my social skills aren’t really on par, so I give myself a little lenience, but I never knew how hard it was NOT to just say “bye” and walk away!
I’m not going to be giving any advice here, because I am terrible at it. So don’t expect any elaborate opinions and thought processes here, from me. I don’t do social science, sorry.

Now, on the topic of ending a post…
…How about that World Cup?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:57 PM

The Soundtrack to your Writing Career

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Welcome to July, everyone! We’ve gotten through one month… let’s see how the rest go from here.

Music is powerful. We are all aware of this, even if we aren’t avid listeners. Music helps get us through a lot, if you listen to it correctly. The right kind of music can act as a warm, tight hug if you’re depressed… it can be a shot of energy and motivation to get us through a long work out, or even cleaning up.
Music is a important part of humanity in of itself.

One of the best things that music can do, is act as inspiration. Even for unrelated things, music can be the push, the pull, the inspiration and the idea… and that’s our topic for today.

The Soundtrack to your Writing Career. The right kind of music for the right kind of time.
But because you know me a bit more than I know you, I’m going to have to go all out on the personal preferences and experiences thing. So if you disagree, or dislike, keep in mind that this is what helps me… and what might help you.

Plus, you’re probably going to learn about my taste in music. I listen to what I like when I write, so I fit my tastes around my work. So this might be DRASTICALLY different when it comes to you, but if you see an idea or suggestion you like, go on and try it.

Typically, when writing a genre or chapter, I try to match the music to the writing. And what is sometimes even harder is matching the music to poetry. Seeing as both of them have a flow, finding one that interconnects enough can be a daunting task.
For The Next Day, I am currently writing the second collection which comes together as a cohesive story, perhaps as an opera or play of some sort. So what I’ve been listening to for that is a wonderful album by the band, Forgive Durden called Razia’s Shadow.

Razia’s Shadow is the soundtrack to a musical without a play or movie to accompany it. It is absolutely gorgeous, and it works so well!
It has a lot going for it. It goes slow, and heavy. Sweet, and mean. It can get very powerful and commanding, then turn down the volume and fall very meek.
All of this gives me PLENTY of thought and flow that works just well with the emotion I am going for, for this collection.

Now, if I’m doing something that is kind of nonsensical, or sort of thought-provoking and hidden in metaphors, there is a couple things I can do.
I’ve listened to the Beatles for some of it, usually their Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour days. That is FANTASTIC if I’m really writing a sort of nonsense wrapped in bacon of meaning.
Another thing that does it well, to a lesser extent, is Panic! At The Disco’s album Pretty. Odd. This album is strange, quirky, and beautiful all at once. I’ve used this album for a lot of my sort of love, or happy relationship poetry. The flow of the music, and the beat in which it is pulled along… makes for some of the best happy nonsense I’ve heard.
Refer to my poem, What a match, I’m half-doomed and you’re semi-sweet for an example of that sort of writing.

I also like a lot of Pink Floyd. I listen to their music if I’m writing something with political or social undertones, or sometimes for depression poems.  They do both of those quite well. I particularly enjoy the albums Dark Side of the MoonThe Division Bell, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Lastly, when I want something heavy, full of angst, or just something really hard, I go to a few places.
I enjoy My Chemical Romance for a lot of those times. I listened to my fair share of them when I wrote The Industry Standard from my last book, because they were both rather dark and heavy.
Also, Nirvana. It’s more of a classic angst, which does a great deal different then MCR. While My Chemical Romance does the depressed hard rock, Nirvana did the rebellious hard rock. It sounds more raw, it sounds more… I don’t know, more ready for a fight. And that can do a great deal when you lack the energy or will to write like that. If you have a backing track by Nirvana, you’ll get tossed in the whirlwind yourself.

Music can do a great deal when it comes to your writing. It’s almost like having a second author, fueling your own work and tag-teaming in with their own ideas when you get too tired. It can show you what could be better and what could have more emotion. Music is truly something that gives a lot, and asks for no more then a little listen every now and again.
I think some people have started to have a certain lack of respect for music after a while. We see a lot of these modern artists, and we see the musical art deteriorating. I mean, a long time ago, even rap was a respectable music with good themes and good sounds. Now, we’ve let what used to be the unwanted, spoiled fruit of the bunch rise up and take control. Now it is feeling like ALL music is doing that.

I love metal music. But here’s the thing, when I say metal, I think of Motley Crue, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Dio… now we have replaced a good deal of metal with the god awful screamo. The demonic bastard son of one hundred maniacs.

Where did all the good music go? Well, we still have some. There are bands out there that try, even new ones. Bastille is FANTASTIC, and they’re fairly new. Of Monsters and Men has been around for a couple of years, same thing with Florence and the Machine.

Good music is out there. Some people don’t realize it, but it is. What we need to do, though, is take the music that deserves the spotlight and actually put it in it, and leave the shady, no effort, redundant tunes and put it in a dark alley where only people that want to take the risk have to go.

I think that really ends my points, both of them.
So next time you sit down to write, think about your soundtrack. What will go in it, and how to make it fit.
Trust me, it will be worth it.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 11:23 AM

Background and Backstory

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Today, I’m going to get into the main post pretty quickly.
But first, let me give you some background on myself;

My favorite music is pop punk/alt rock.
My favorite cereal is cornflakes and those flash frozen strawberries.
My favorite soda is cherry Pepsi.

I am American, I was born in Texas, and I’m sixteen years old going on seventeen. My eyes are hazel, and I’ve finally settled on that after being told by numerous people that my eyes are BOTH green and brown, separately.
I like to write, obviously. I like to sing. I like to cook.
In school, I liked history and English. I am going to study computer science and technology in college.
I like to keep my hair long.
I prefer women with Scottish accents rather then the mainstream English accents. (Though both are extremely beautiful, like seriously.)

That was a little background on me. All these facts are true, due to them being facts of course, and that leads into today’s main topic;

Background and backstory in writing. Both important elements, both entirely different, but both give some much needed information for character development, growth, and just… a way for the reader to get to know and grow attached to said character. Without these two tools in our toolbox, our characters would be sad one-shot pieces with nothing to build on.

Before I go into detail on each one, let me give you the broad definitions that I was raised writing with;

Backstory – The tale of your main character before the events of the book. Told through flashbacks, prologues, or conversation. Shows a timeline within the book, and gives a character a more 3D appearance.

Background – Basically just extra info on a character. Told through conversation, or just basic story-telling and day to day events. Can also be a tool kept to the author. Helps broaden the character more, making it nearly fully 3D, because now he has likes, dislikes, favorites, and real world things that help the author get more personal with his character.

Now, our feature presentation.
Let us start with background.

As I said in the shortened definition there, background is really just extra info. It broadens your character to a real world equivalent. Let’s take my character from my new book, Aubrey Kasey, as an example.
We want to leave out any real story elements, or anything that would usually add to the plot in a significant manner.

  • So here. Aubrey Kasey.
  • Well, Aubrey Kasey is an insomniac.
  • He is on a few prescription drugs, and a few not so prescription.
  • His favorite cereal is Lucky Charms.
  • He likes black coffee.
  • While an introvert in of himself, he likes extroverted women because they help him live more then he typically would.
  • He is a writer.
  • He has had three books rejected in twenty years, each around twelve times each.
  • He never smokes.
  • His preferred alcoholic beverage of choice is a banana daiquiri. (Though around women, he gets a gin and tonic.)
  • Aubrey Kasey’s middle name is Bartholomew.

There you have it. Some tid-bits of information about my character. As I’ve probably said twice before, this really helps bring the character into the real world. Aubrey may never once get a banana daiquiri in the book, but know that he loves ’em! You, the reader, may never know his favorite cereal, or his choice in women, but I, the author and creator of Aubrey Kasey, do. And it helps me develop a much more realistic, moving character that you can relate too, by having this information laid out in front of me. I can really get up close and personal, and learn things about my character until he’s practically my best friend. (Or he’s so despicable I wouldn’t let him pet my dog.)
Usually, I keep this as an author’s tool unless one of the traits or favorites has a plot point in the book. Otherwise, I have a list on my desk next to me of all this stuff about my character while I’m writing, and it’s all good.

Next, let’s talk about backstory.

Backstory is the events that happened to your character before the events of the actual book. Backstory can be as short as what the character did the day before, or his life story from birth ’till then. The length of a backstory should really depend on what type of story it is, and what the character is like. You have to think about whether or not it will add something to the story, explain something that the readers will read later, or let us see a bit closer into the character. I have read some stories where the author creates this elaborate backstory full of twists and turns, and then it has nothing to do with the rest of story, it is never mentioned again, and it really didn’t have an impact.

Don’t do this. For me, an excessive backstory/prologue is an absolute story killer. Either have one and have it matter, or don’t have one at all. Sometimes enigmatic characters are cool anyways.

Another way you can go about it is like the background; keep it to yourself. I’ve written a few short-stories where the title character himself hardly has any info, no name, no story, sometimes no motive! (Don’t do the last one… most of the time, it’s a mistake)
But still, I write a backstory. Whether it is a paragraph or two pages, I make myself know the character, even if the readers won’t.

I am a firm believer that if anyone should know the main character, it should be the author. After all, how can you write for someone you don’t know? Learn the character, know the character, make them your friend.
THAT will help.

Real quick, I want to talk about the difference between prologue and backstory. Every prologue has a backstory, but not all backstories are prologues.
A prologue is at the beginning of the story. We’re talking about books here, because obviously movies can do it differently. (Star Wars, anyone?)
I prefer prologues. I prefer to introduce my readers to a character back then, and now, so that they can see the difference, development or growth in the character.

A regular backstory has to be developed through the story, through dialogue and narration. While it can work quite well, giving bits of the character’s story throughout the novel, I simply prefer the prologue method, because it seems plainer and easier to do. There is no gray area, there is no question what the character means, you have two black and white sections; then and now.
And that seems to work best, at least for me.

Now not everyone needs a backstory… or background. But I recommend both, especially if you are a fledgling writer. Even if you just keep it to yourself, they are yet another couple tools to help your story.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 9:47 PM