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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown



Backstory vs. Flashback



In the movie ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ Clint Eastwood blows into a troubled town as a drifter without a past—or even a name—and the film works. But your vibrant 3-dimensional character needs more, and there is likely something in his past that will add meaning to the story you’re trying to tell. 

But how to get that information across?

Backstory refers to pieces of your character’s past that will have direct influence on the current story. For example, if your protagonist attended a certain college, that’s just part of his history. But if the woman he’s just met was also a student there—and perhaps lusted after him—then it’s backstory That bit of the past will have influence on the present, so it’s important for the reader to know.

Backstory is usually told in straightforward prose, and is an easy, economical way to get the relevant facts across, whether you use a single sentence or several paragraphs. If you dramatize a portion of the backstory as a scene—with action and dialogue—it becomes a flashback.

Writers are often warned against using flashbacks, I’ll go into that next, but it’s a powerful device. Backstory prose always runs the risk of ‘telling’ the reader information, while a flashback ‘shows’ it in vivid life.

For example, in my story Dogfish, Sandra goes on a business trip with her boss, with whom she’s having an affair. It would have been heavy-handed to say he was a selfish lover who treated her badly, although that information was critical. So I chose to create a flashback of their lovemaking:

Yet he didn’t pull back. He wrapped my thick, wavy hair around his fist for leverage and plunged deeper into my mouth, his urgent growls vibrating through his body and down my throat. My pussy swam with want, but even disappointed, I was triumphant he couldn’t turn away from me. I stroked myself with my free hand, fell into the rhythm of his thrusts and tried to come when he did.

"You’re a dangerous woman," he whispered afterwards, against my ear. "I can’t hold back. But just wait until I have some time with you."

The sacrifice of a flashback, and the reason writers are often told to avoid it, is that it stops the momentum of your current story cold. You remove the reader from the compelling ‘now’ and take him on a detour through ‘then,’ and run the risk of losing his interest by the shift.

The trick to it is What and When.

What: Don’t waste the power of a flashback on trivial details that can be told just as easily through backstory prose. Choose that one moment of the past that’s critical, and which you think would have the greatest impact if shown. Keep it as brief and lively as possible.

When:  If a story begins as a flashback, and then slips into the present afterwards, it feels like a ‘cheat’ to the reader. His sympathies are already engaged with a certain time frame and when you start the ‘now’ story, you may have to recapture his interest all over again.

Establish your current time frame and then slip into the flashback. That way, the reader understands the true road you’re traveling—who, what, when—and is willing to take a little detour to enjoy the scenery.

Keep both backstory and flashbacks in the first half of the story, even the first third, if you can. You don’t want them stalling the momentum after the mid-point of your story, when you’ve begun hurtling toward the climax.

Of course, there are exceptions. We’ve all seen movies and read stories where a flashback near the end reveals the ‘truth’ of a situation. But to work well, they’ve been carefully set up—usually through a whole series of flashbacks. ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Fight Club’ are both brilliant examples. And if you can write that well, please drop me a line and give me some pointers!

_______ 
"Beyond the Basics" © 2005 Tulsa Brown. All rights reserved.


About the Author:  Tulsa Brown is an award-winning novelist who has also written for film and media, and has led many writing workshops for adults and young people.



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