Yeah, well, I don't know what I was thinking.
I have no idea where this novels ends. All I have are a few later scenes sketched out in my mind and on paper. I'm pretty sure of where the novel starts, but the story starts years before what happens on that first page. Does the reader need to know everything that happened in the past? No. Do I, as the writer? I don't know. The word "everything" is kind of vague.
Now, the organized, list-loving part of my brain loves the concept of those Character Background Sheets. You know, the ones that ask you to list the traits and habits and secrets of your characters. I have tried using those things again and again, and every time, I get frustrated and rip up the pages and toss them about the room like confetti. I don't know her favorite ice cream flavor. I don't know his first puppy's name.
So, instead of making myself even crazier and having to clean confetti off the tortoises' shells, I decided to stop forcing my writing process into one that's "acceptable." I didn't write Chapter Twelve for Camp NaNo, but I wrote scene after scene of backstory. I wrote them as if they were actual chapters, even though the chances of me using them whole and complete are slim to none. I wrote them from the POV of whatever character's backstory I was recording. I listened and I learned. So, that's why the Antagonist is as insane as she is! Ah, the Antagonist's sidekick has a few secrets of her own! Oh, I didn't see that possible plot line connecting a good guy and a bad guy before!
I might not know who loves chocolate ice cream or whose dog was named Floppy, but I do know, or at least I'm learning, what's important to this story and to the people in it.
As a writer, how do you handle backstory? Do you use those Character Background Sheets? How do you make them work for you? As a reader, how do you like to come across backstory - in big flashback scenes or chapters? In threads woven here and there into the main story?