Bogged Down by Backstory

by Rai


The Fool lays back to gaze up at the stars. “They’re so beautiful,” he said, “but so distant.”

“Like possible futures,” agrees the girl. “Cool and distant. Yet if you keep one in sight, it can guide you to your destination no matter how far away it is.” –


A few days ago I woke up with an epiphany, the clearest direction I’ve felt with my book since I started writing it during NaNoWriMo last year. I know where I want it to go. I know what I want it to be. Problem is, I still don’t know how to take it there.

See, this project started as a memoir. Like my songwriting, I never had a knack for making stuff up. Every lyric I wrote, every word I committed to page had to be true, as in, I had to of lived it. So I wrote what I knew, I wrote what I lived. Within that, I began to see another story- the same story, but like, the essence of it- the folk tale version. “If I tweak this here, rearrange that, there,” I thought, “I’d really have a novel on my hands.”

While I’m not afraid to sensationalize details, I’m morally conflicted about fictionalizing large portions of my manuscript. But the story I want to write, calls for it. If I’m to tell a tale with any lasting affect on the soul, it needs to be “surrealized” a bit.

The Star - Da Vinci Tarot

The Star – Da Vinci Tarot

And with this in mind, I shuffled my tarot deck and The Star popped out. I’m not at home, so again, I’m using an image from a deck that’s not my own, but I love the story of The Star.

Ruled by Aquarius, which always has the future in mind, The Star whispers the hope of possibility. It’s not a guaranteed fate, but a damn strong sign that good things are on the horizon so long as you keep your eye on whatever goal you’ve set up for yourself; the aim, the idea, the beacon.

When I started writing From the Other Seat, I’d written in little to no personal backstory. Rather, it was simply meant to be a book about a struggling musician who has a type of spiritual awakening through an unlikely source, the game of baseball. Could have been any musician. Then, I sent it to a few people to read and similar comments came back. They wanted to know more about me, where I had come from, my music story. Reluctantly, I began the tedious task of writing personal backstory.

I do see how this aids my character, puts me in context, gives other chapters more weight, but now I feel chained to it. Not only do I feel the backstory needs to stay, but I also feel it’s the one thing preventing me from pushing my manuscript to its full potential. In other words, shit got too real and I don’t know how to make it fake.

Making it fake should be easy, and it is when I fictionalize aspects of other characters, but my backstory feels impenetrable, stubborn as kryptonite.

Could it be a pride issue? An incredible need for people to know what really happened? As if I’ll start to disappear like Marty McFly if I don’t tell the whole tale exactly how it was.Will I disappear? It’s that back story, the real story, that built this tale. Fictionalized, sensationalized, without that backstory, there wouldn’t be a story. Yet I have this star in mind, this distant goal I’m trying to reach with my story and my gut tells me, that’s the story I need to tell.

“The Star offers no guarantees, of course, that the traveler won’t tire and give up or be lured in another direction. And there is no telling what obstacles they’ll encounter along the way. All the Star promises is that a particular future can exist.” –


With that, I’ll leave you with Isaac Tichauer’s “Doing What I Got” because I feel like it’s my soundtrack this week. “I’m just trying to be G, doing what I got to do. People think that I’m just sitting on top of the world.” Props to Brandy on the original.

Be well, love often and enjoy!