View Full Version : Back-story For Plot Item
06-01-2009, 05:32 PM
This might be a dumb idea, but it has nailed itself to my brain and refuses to let go:
I'm thinking about using 'cursed' gold (believed by the characters to be cursed, though no supernatural elements in the story) and was drawn to the historical information of the plundering by Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro. All of the dark imagery that comes from his looting adding to the 'curse'.
The gold would then be moved to Santa Fe for some reason (not sure on this plot point; maybe someone lining their own pockets). From Santa Fe it is transported (in the 1700's) in twelve chests of Spanish coins to St. Augustine, Florida for payroll and garrison expenses as seen here (www.legendsofamerica.com/CP-ColoradoTreasures6.html).
In 1865 it would be found and used to aid in the civil war, but with the end of the war it is hidden (to be retrieved at a later date) and not found again until twenty or so years later.
The gold will then be taken by my characters and divided up. Is this way too much back-story to build up just how cursed the gold really is?
Am I over-thinking this?
Work it in as dialogue and it's not too much. Have someone who knows the story of the gold fill another person in about the hazards. Puma
06-11-2009, 03:22 AM
Is this way too much back-story to build up just how cursed the gold really is?
Depends. Can you get characters to have strong opinions about this history each step of the way? Is there a descendant of Pizarro who's looking for a particular ring in the stash? Are treasure hunters with links to a Civil War society hunting for it? Can you send your characters to Santa Fe to find a clue, only to discover that the gold isn't there but was moved to St. Augustine? Does a character have an ex-wife and an ex-friend in St. Augustine that he'd really rather not meet?
Backstories live when characters care, and past events tie to present action or nasty dilemmas.
06-11-2009, 03:40 AM
I need the gold to terrify the character who is currently in possession of the hoard. He has to be completely paralytic with terror at the prospect of something B. A. D. happening. The idea was to build up the backstory in small moments of creeping terror (not a horror type story, but with the elements of one) and finally pay it off with the character taking on the aspect of the bad vibes.
I'm still confused about half of the story, and I need a way to clear a path through the narrative. Having each step in the bloody and tragic history revealed at the start of each chapter seemed (at the time) like a good way of building tension and fear.
Puma's suggestion is noted. :)
06-11-2009, 03:58 AM
I need the gold to terrify the character who is currently in possession of the hoard. He has to be completely paralytic with terror at the prospect of something B. A. D. happening. The idea was to build up the backstory in small moments of creeping terror (not a horror type story, but with the elements of one) and finally pay it off with the character taking on the aspect of the bad vibes.If you want to make it scary I think you'll need more than backstory. You need some threat and menace tied to the backstory. E.g. the gold is Bad Luck, and for this character the bad luck seems to manifest in his dealings with the local Bad Boys in town. To up the stakes, add a helpless dependent -- maybe someone he could benefit if the owner dared spend the gold. But someone too who might suffer if the Bad Boys find out about the gold.
Then you could have another character who knows about the gold (maybe a partner?) who's bookish and a worry-wort. Every time something bad happens, he can explain it as part of the gold's curse and link it to a piece of backstory. He argues to ditch the gold, the owner's torn and the bad boys are starting to get a whiff of it.
You said that you eventually want the gold to fall into the hands of the other characters, so you'd need a way to put them into this growing conflict between the owner and the bad boys. Maybe they're after the bad boys then hear about the gold. Maybe they're after the owner... or maybe the owner has done something desperate and bad that they're looking into -- but they don't know yet that he's done it.
Hi BigWords - When I first read your question I assumed the gold would be part of your Reverend story. If that's a bad assumption, my mistake.
But ... you've got some possibilities with your idea. A lot of the plundered Aztec gold (and I assume you are talking about Cortez instead of Pizarro) was lost in the lagoons of Mexico City on the Noche Triste when the Aztecs removed the bridges. So ... who found the gold that went into the canals?
Transporting the gold to Santa Fe may be a bit far afield. There's really no reason to, especially since Santa Fe is so far inland. There were Spanish in Santa Fe, soldiers and Padres. But, another option is to transport the gold up along El Camino Real to California - San Diego or one of the other missions would be a possibility.
However, one of the things you're missing is having a ship with the gold on it attacked and taken by pirates. To ship it from California they'd have to go down around Cape Horn but if they came up the east coast of South America (heading to Florida) they would be in pirate territory. I didn't check out your legends of America link, but, you can go from here/there.
As I said, I can see some possibilities, but the backstory would almost have to be worked in as library research or something like that. Keep thinking on it. Puma
06-11-2009, 06:56 AM
It's the gold which the cross is made of, so yeah :) it is connected.
I may mean Cortez. I was writing the backstory out as quickly as I could to keep the thoughts straight, and the one may have gotten mixed up with the other. One of the reference sheets I pulled out mentioned Pizarro, so I stuck him in the mix.
[and the benefit of AW is that kind of mistake will get picked up on quickly]
It's the nasty, spilled blood, mountains of bodies type history that will scare him into turning it into a cross. There's no way a guy who likes shooting people would walk away from his life; and to end up at the point where the story kicks off, the gold feels like it ought to be "cursed".
Each stage of the gold's history, from the original mining of the gold (dangerous business) to the eventual result that The Reverend goes insane - after spending so very long desperate to keep the bad mojo from his door.
I'm trying to work in small call-backs to the historical events and his 'current' situation as events progress, so that the info-dump at the beginning of each chapter isn't so blatant / annoying / obvious.
The temptation to say 'to hell with accuracy', and stick zombies into the mix, is really overpowering. I'm trying to stay within a single genre for once. ;)
06-11-2009, 06:32 PM
I'd say for something like this, the background of the character is much more important than the background of the gold. You need a character who would believe in a curse of some sort, and you'd have to build that characteristic up so that the reader would believe that he'd believe. There are literally dozens of lost gold mine stories in the West, and most of them come with some sort of curse and/or "bad stuff" mixed around with it. What's important is that your character believes it...and it doesn't have to be outlandish to make it work. Maybe due to something in his past, or a facet of his upbringing, HE'S the only one who "sees" the links and feels that the gold is cursed.
06-16-2009, 12:16 AM
This sounds interesting. I'm not sure if it's too much backstory--depends on how central the gold is to your plotline. If it's central, then it's definitely not too much.
This reminds me of a Louis L'Amour that had a somewhat similar plotline, I think...
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