Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for backstory

As you may know, I am again participating in the A to Z blog challenge wherein I will be posting almost every day in April (Monday-Saturday). To try to make this a little more organized and interesting, I've come up with a general posting schedule.

Monday - something light to start the week. A bit of self-care, creativity challenge or the like.
Tuesday - telling notes for a specific story or kind of story. Tips and tricks to help you think about what you're telling and how.
Wednesday - my usual #tellinglife post, looking at some of the more personal aspects of storytelling and its role in my life.
Thursday - a dip into some of the issues facing contemporary storytelling or a dive into some of the more unusual applications of storytelling.
Friday - my usual personal post about life following the death of my husband
Saturday - the storytelling coach offers a tip you can use right now. An example of the kinds of tools I encourage my students to use.

I hope this looks as intrguing to you as it does to me. And here we go!

Today we're going to look at backstory. Websters defines it as a narrative providing a history or background context, especially for a character or situation in a literary work, film, or dramatic series. This includes storytelling.

I believe it can be valuable for storytellers, writers and others to have a sense of what happened before the starting point of their story. Before Once upon a time. You don't need to tell the audience the backstory - in fact, it might be detrimental and distracting were they to do so - but it may very well inform how you tell the story. Let's take a look at a familiar story and see how backstory might influence the ways you tell it.

Think about Little Red Riding Hood for a moment, the version you know best. Remind yourself of the beginning, the middle and the end. If it's already in your repertoire think about how you feel when you start to tell it, your body language, your expressions and stance.

Got it?

Okay, now let's ask some questions about what happened before you started telling the story. You don't have to answer all of them, maybe only one or two.

  • How old is the little girl? How old is the mother?
  • Why is there no father on the scene?
  • Can they really afford the goodies they are sending to the grandmother?
  • Does the grandmother have something the mother or granddaughter want?
  • Does the mother like/love the grandmother? Is the grandmother the mother's mother or the father's mother?
  • Does the girl like/love the grandmother?
  • How often does the girl visit her grandmother? Is the path familiar?
  • Is it a sunny day? A cloudy one? Morning? Evening?
  • Why did the grandmother make the cloak red?
  • How long has she been sick? Is she really sick?
  • Is the wolf starving? Bored? Horny?
  • Do all animals talk in this world?
You get the idea. I could go on endlessly. I know this is a lot of questions, probably too many, but answering even a few might change your understanding of the story and may shape how you convey that meaning to the audience.

Once you know some of the backstory, the stuff that happens before the beginning, you can weave that understanding into how you tell the story. It might impact the imagery you use when talking about the forest or wolf. It might change your body language when you talk about the grandmother sick in bed. The possibilities are endless. Examining the backstory might even suggest a whole new way to tell the story.

You can apply backstory to just about any story. If you're feeling stuck in your creative process it might be a way to jolt you back on track. Give it a shot and let me know what happens!

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to the challenge! :) I hope you'll have a lot of fun! I like it that you do different things each day of the week. :) Also, I never thought about whose mother Little Red's grandmother was... O.o


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