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Backstory or Essential Tidbit? Help Me Decide!

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This week, my editor finished critiquing my manuscript, Jane the Quene. As I read through her comments, I noticed that there were several passages she suggested I cut because they slowed the pacing…all backstory details that don’t need to be there but that give a fuller picture of the people and the times.  Let me say, I agree with the pacing argument – but some of these morsels seem essential to slip in elsewhere (in a way that is less distracting than I was apparently being). Of course, I realize I may be wrong about how important this information would be to other Tudor fans – so will you please help me out? Let me know which of these snippets would be most significant (or least significant) to you and I’ll figure out a way to make them work somewhere else (or cut them with fewer qualms). And thank you!

  • Perhaps as an outgrowth of his fear of death and disease, Henry was fascinated with herbs. He made his own remedies, both for himself and for friends, and even took his tools on progress with him. (I have to say, this is the one I care about most – I already know where it would really work).
  • Edward Seymour’s father seduced Edward’s first wife – then went slightly mad from guilt.
  • Henry’s boyhood household included Nicholas Carew, Charles Brandon, William Compton…and Henry Norris.
  • Even Sir Thomas More had recognized that vice existed in the monasteries and advocated that some houses be closed. (This is the one most likely to be simply cut, except that I love the background that prompted More’s condemnation: a prior of a religious house had hired a band of cutthroats to commit murder for him, then as a nod to his position, he made them pray with him in his cell before they left to do the deed).
Published inWriting Life

14 Comments

  1. I love all the “useless” information I discover and I’m always trying to sneak it in … and then have to cut it out! It makes for great blog posts or another book! I’d like to know more about Henry and his Herbs.

  2. These would only slow (imho) because of the interest the info elicits. Do you have a way of using the info as a pointer to a diversion which could be skimmed by those with no interest or add depth to background for the true Tudor fans?

    • You are so right, thank you! I need to sit and figure out what is really important to me, then fit the information in a different way so that it doesn’t drag. I want to keep the story interesting for a wide audience – but not disappoint the true Tudor fans who would love this stuff.

  3. I love that! I have already figured out how to deal with Henry’s herbs in a way that furthers the story….the monks, on the other hand, will likely not make it,even as a diversion…

  4. I have one published novel, and I would tend to listen to an editor for a first novel, but ultimately it is your choice as author. Personally, if I read “Even Thomas More …” I would probably shut that book. Of course he knew what was going on in some (by no means all) monasteries. The guy was a famed Renaissance humanist who had A LOT of contact with religious and clergy – he seriously considered becoming a monk in his youth. He was no naive babe in the woods – he was Lord Chancellor to Henry and prominent friend, advisor and member of Henry’s court before that, as well as phenomenally well educated, shrewd, highly intelligent and deeply religious man. And Edward Seymour could have as easily gone made from syphilis as from guilt! I’d be more inclined to put those opinions as questions in someone’s train of thought. The herbs are interesting and it sounds like you can make work, and the household members can be done through conversation or inclusion in some event that happens. Again personally, I find too many over-developed side characters confusing and distracting sometimes.

  5. I agree with Kate Martyn. The snippets are interesting but I think would be better worked into the story in some way. As a reader I hate to distracted from the thread of the story but, as an author, I know the temptation of including them. I used Henry’s interest in medicine in my last book by having one of the characters fall ill and he mixed them a remedy. His boyhood friends could be worked into a conversation where he is reminiscing perhaps? Personally, as a writer, the story is key. The reader wouldn’t miss any of the examples you’ve listed – so it is all down to your own preference. You are the author. Good luck with whatever decision you make.

    • That is exactly the line I will be trying to walk! Thank you! And now I have to go look up your book!

  6. It is hard to judge without knowing the plot line.The childhood friends are important if there are issues as to, for example, Anne and Carew, or Mary Rose and Brandon. Try to work the herbs into an incident in which the information is relevant, and unless he is the demon in your story, forget Edward Seymour. ..

  7. You are absolutely right about Edward – except that I might still use the incident to shed light on Jane and Edward’s childhood…what that did to Jane to grow up with a father who could do that to his son…

  8. Joining the conversation late! But I saw keep the one with the herbs. And as other suggested, somehow weave it into the story. I think the fact that he was fascinated by herbs and would share herbal remedies with others really gives more ‘life’ to his character. In fact, I’d want to know more. Maybe even a little story – this would add more weight to this fact and lower the chance of a reader skimming past it.

    • Thank you, June! Yes, that is exactly what I did – I worked it into the story of how and when he and Jane originally fell in love. I’m loving it now!

      • Sounds perfect! Can’t wait until you publish this piece!

  9. Me too! Next year, once I have worked out all POV issues! I am taking it down so that the only POV characters are Jane Seymour and Thomas Cromwell…a big but perfect change.

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