I’ve been struggling with the back story elements of the Fourth of July Game. I got about 15,000 words of rough draft which tell the story of how Suzan Frazier, a child born in Otura on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan, came to be raised by a Canadian married couple – Marianne and Alaister (Al) Frazier. But every time I try to weave it in that main storyline, I find myself disappointed in what I an doing.
I end up writing a lot of narrative prose. I’m not really happy about that. The old “show ,don’t tell” adage for fiction writers keeps coming back into my mind whenever I move on to editing this material.
So I tried turning it into narrative, a dialogue between two of the main characters. When I started to edit this material, I realized that I had written a mono-bloc of dialogue broken into smaller pieces by phrases like: she said .. she responded.
In last day or two, no matter what I’ve been doing: cooking, cleaning, driving – this whole issue is been running around in my head. Here’s what I think my options are tor dealing with this.
Create a series of back flashes.
But I don’t really like this option. It seems to me to be too much of a writer’s device. Whenever I read a book which jumps back and forward in time through back flashes, I’m personally dissatisfied.
Create a sub-plot story line.
I’m leaning towards this option. It allows me to tell the back story from the point of view of one or more of the other minor characters in the main story line. I have a choice among 3: Suzan’s mother – Marianne; her father – Al; or and her Japanese yakuza grandfather, Yori. There are couple of issues I need to resolve the though.
Suzan’s back story really starts 20 years earlier. How do I integrate the back story into the today time line of the main story while maintaining temporal continuity.
Who do I make the main character in my subplot, my point of view character for it. At this point, my first choice is Marianne. But I am beginning to realize that choosing this point this makes this very much a book about women, since my main character is Suzan, and my core sub-plot character is Marianne.
Al is not a character for whom I have much sympathy at this point in the story line development. Chosing Yori feels to me like taking on a point of view that I can handle as a side character, but not a main or core sub-plot character. I don’t understand his point of view and life history well enough.
How do I tie the sub-plot into the overall story so that it’s not just a piece of “drop in” but actually allows me to move the growing development of Suzan’s character forward.
Finally, how do I do all of this in such a way that I don’t slow down the pace or the tempo of the main story.
I don’t have answers yet, but I’m fascinated by the way that the characters in this back story – Al, Marianne, and Yori – are developing a complexity and a life of their own which far exceeds my original conception of them.
One of the things that scares me a bit is that the last time I struggled with this problem while working on writing ‘Shepherd’s Revenge”. My solution was to start writing The Fourth of July Game – a whole different novel, rather than incorporating element’s of Suzan’s back story into that novel’s story line.