So, you’ve come up with an introduction, a few characters, maybe even some plot. What you’re missing now is that last element that’ll give this story of yours the kick it needs. Can you guess what that is? *pauses while you guess* That’s right! Background information! It’s not enough to say, “Sally went to the market. Then she bought milk. Finally she went home.” That is a straight line from beginning to end and it is boring.
If the little dude up there is your character (or your audience), then you don’t have a problem. Your story is perfect for him. If, however, you do not wish your characters to all come off as stick figures, that is two-dimensional, you’ve got to add some depth to the story so they can become three-dimensional.
Now you’re thinking, “Well how do I add depth?” If you’re not thinking it, you should be! Background information and the character’s past experiences should be woven into the story like lace in a garment. It’s there to add intrigue, a finishing touch. In other words, why is Sally going to the market to buy milk?
Example: Sally went to the market. It was important that she buy milk before her mom got home and found out she’d forgotten to go to the store earlier like she’d been told. She rushed to the dairy section and scooped up a carton. Her foot tapped impatiently while she waited in line. Finally, she rushed back home, arriving five minutes before her mother did.
There’s that same story about Sally buying milk, but suddenly it seems just a little bit more urgent, a little more interesting. All I did was offer background information on why Sally needed to buy the milk and then used that information to shape my character’s actions – the foot tapping, rushing – and motivations – avoiding punishment. You should do this throughout your story. If you’re too straightforward and forthcoming with your information, there’s no intrigue, so be sure to strategically place little hints of this and that until finally, preferably at some climactic scene, all those hints come together to form something more cohesive. It is not easy to do this, which is why it helps if you already know everything there is to know about your character before you start writing a story. Tune in next time to find out about character development!
Word of the Day: Meander (v) – to wander aimlessly; ramble