Friday, March 2, 2012

No Backstory!

I have a lot of backstory in the opening of my novel. Sigh.

I know that backstory is "telling", not "showing", that it is boring and it does not move my story forward, so I am going to have to chuck it.  Instead, I need to introduce my characters in a "showing" way. 

I found How NOT to Introduce a New Character on The Write Practice blog. It was a great post and made even better by the exercise at the end; Practice introducing characters, using NO BACKSTORY. :0)
Exercise: Pretend you see five different people you know while shopping at the grocery story. Two are friends, two are former co-workers, and one is your arch-nemesis. You have to introduce each person without giving backstory. What do you talk about? What do you do? How does your handshake and greeting describe your relationship?

Here's mine:

Jess saw Kara come around the corner, holding a basket filled with fresh veggies and fruit in one arm and a box of Wheaties in her other. She was reading the Nutrition label on the side of the box. She would have run into an old lady pushing a cart if Jess hadn't linked arms with her and whirled her back into the isle.

"Girl, you almost ran that lady over!"

"Oh, sorry. Just reading the label. I can never find a cereal without preservatives."

"Kara, you are so weird."

Kara elbowed Jess. "Well, I might be weird, but I'm going to live longer than you. Is that a box of donuts I see in your basket?"
As Jess rounded the condiment isle, she saw Michael standing in line at the deli.  He had one hand in his skinny jean's pocket and the other on his cellphone at his ear. Jess said hi as she passed him. He looked at her, nodded, and resumed his forward stance. Jess looked back and saw that he ordered his deli meat by pointing and nodding, never once stopping his phone conversation.  Jess scrunched her lips together.

He was cute, but not that cute.
"Oh,, Jim, right?" Jess said.

"Yeah, that's me. Easy to forget, huh?" Jim said.

As soon as he saw her, she noticed him stiffen. He had been smiling at the little girl by his side, but the smile wiped away instantly when he saw her.

"So, did you find a new job?"


"Oh, sorry to hear that."

"Well, it doesn't concern you, does it? You still have a job, don't you? Come on, Leslie, Daddy's gotta go."

And with that, Jim slammed the soda bottle back on the shelf. The bubbles rose angrily from inside the bottle as Jim stalked off, pulling the little girl behind him.
Jess saw Mrs. Burns smelling pineapples.

"I never know how to pick a pineapple," Jess said to her.

"Oh, my goodness! Jess. Oh honey, how have you been?"

Mrs. Burns set the pineapple down and wrapped Jess in a warm embrace.

"I haven't been by the planetarium since I retired," she said. "It's too sad for me, you know. I worked there for 30 years. So, how has everyone been?"

"Just fine, Mrs. Burns. We're teaching kids to love the night sky as much as you do. Did you know that we even picked up your old habit of starting the presentation by singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"? I always thought that was so corny, but we missed it when you left. Now we all sing it."
All the check-out lines were full, so Jess went to the 10 Items or Less line. She was looking at magazine covers and didn't notice her cashier till it was too late to back out of the line. It was Analise Watkins.

"Oh, if it isn't Jess Reis," Analise said, thrusting out her boobs and tilting her head down to look at her.

"Hello, Analise." I sighed.

Analise made a haughty noise in her throat and picked up Jess's bananas. She dropped them on the scale and then punched the code in hard. Then she shoved the bananas down the belt. She turned to the bagger.

"Bobby, make sure you carefully bag her groceries. She's my best-est friend." The words dripped like sickening-sweet acid.

It was the longest 2 minutes of my life.

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