Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Story Sense: Writing from the Back Door

by Pat Tabb
In a rush of excitement, I recently began building a story about three characters thrown together through adverse circumstances.  After a number of chapters, I found a flaw. One of them, a girl we’ll call Allie, was the main protagonist and it was her story that was supposed to drive the rest of the narrative.  Problem was, she had a lot of competition from her “peers.”  I needed to establish her at the front door of the book so as to make that clear and to keep the other two strong characters “in their places.” There was no way past it—I had to take a few steps back and write that infernal prologue, where she would make her grand entry.
I wrote the prologue—well, the first prologue.  Then I wrote another.  When I started constructing a third (each telling a different angle of the story), I threw up my hands.  I had written enough of the story to know what it was about, but not enough to know exactly where I was headed; thus, the introduction kept folding on me. 
That’s when I decided to walk around to the back door of my story’s structure.  After asking questions about where I thought Allie (and the other characters) would land at the story’s end, I honored the pictures that came to mind.  Immediately, I took this scene to paper.  It was easier than I had thought.  I had written enough to know my characters fairly well and could project the ending. 
The back door was a great way to explore my story’s introduction.  The prologue that “fit” was much more apparent.   I could make good decisions about what and how much I wanted to reveal about Allie upfront.    
The next chapters took better shape as well.  Now that I am in full swing, halfway through the writing, I am more focused and more productive as I see each chapter a step toward the final scene.  (Although I must admit that the ending still gets a good tweaking now and then.) 
It’s a thought worth considering:  Is there a final scene in mind for your current story? If so, how will it serve the development of the narrative from page one and on?

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