My buddy Roy Burkhead, who lives in Mt. Juliet, outside of Nashville, sent me an email today and asked me about the difference between backstory and flashback.
He’d read my post from yesterday and was pondering this deep issue.
I so approve of people pondering deep issues like this pertaining to writing. Civilians think we are nuts, but this is how the brain of a writer works–we are constantly engaged in such earth-shattering ruminations (I know, I know, I’ve been overusing that word lately, but it is my current favorite) as inciting incident or plot point? character arc or plot arc? and so forth. Being married or otherwise related to a writer is often hell.
Anyway–flashback vs. backstory. Here’s my take on it: a flashback refers to when you hark back to a memory of some sort. It is the process of harking back.
Backstory is the actual memory. It generally is taken to mean a memory or event in the character’s past that has had some impact on how she or he acts in current time.
Going back to Roy, whenever I am in Nashville and tell people I am going to Mt. Juliet, I am greeted with peals of laughter. Because I pronounce Juliet the way any normal sane person who is not from the south and hates sweet tea would–the way you say it when you refer to the name of the Shakespeare play. Ju-li-et. It has three syllables, people.
But not if you live in the south. Then it is pronounced Julet. Or Juleh. Or even just Jul as far as I can tell. You are supposed to slur the last two syllables together.
Sort of the same way Louisville is pronounced Loo-uh-ville.
Just keeping you informed.