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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Journey of a Story - What is backstory?

Backstory - What is it?

Essentially, back story is information that the reader doesn't need to know, but the writer must. In this case, it ties the last book to the current story.
What makes this backstory? Two questions - how much does the reader need to know in order to enjoy the story and does it move the story forward? In this case, the answer to the first is not at all and then second is No. 
However, I as a writer do need to know it, and some version of it will or may eventually be threaded into the final version.
*****
Settling back in a chair in Tareq’s office with a cup of thick, dark coffee in hand, Ky nodded in answer to Tareq’s question. One of the mid-level directors with the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Tareq was an old friend, dating back to when Ky had first begun searching for the Tomb of the Djinn.
“Now that the Tomb has been found,” Ky said. “I need a new challenge. Andrew’s offer couldn’t have come at a better time.”
“I’ll miss you, old friend,” Tareq said.
“I’ll miss you, too, Tareq,” Ky responded.
After all the years spent trying to find the Tomb, it was nothing more than the truth.  They’d become good friends.
“I’d speak to the director, and get you a position here, but the situation here…” Tareq shrugged. “I love my country. We’ve managed to preserve our heritage in ways no other civilization has.”
Among them now, the Tomb of the Djinn. And its contents.
The invisible elephant in the room was the situation in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. What had been originally been intended to be a peaceful demonstration against the current regime was turning ugly. On both sides. As it had the first time, but far more so this time. Once renowned for its egalitarian society, it, as with so many other countries, seemed to be regressing.
Ky could see the disquiet and dismay Tareq tried to hide. They knew each other too well.
It was a personal struggle for Tareq. He hadn’t been a huge supporter of the current regime. Nor was Ky. It was an unknown entity with an unknown agenda.
Knowing what was in the Tomb of the Djinn, they and Raissa had debated what to do.
One of the staff ran into the room, his expression tense.
“They just arrested the Director,” he announced.
The Director. The man who had helped Tareq get the permits that allowed Ky and his team to unearth first the Fort in the desert, and then the Tomb of the Djinn itself.
Startled, Tareq asked, “Why?”
“Misuse of funds or something,” the staff member said. His eyes glittered. It was clear he approved. His attitude toward Tareq also spoke volumes about which side he was on. Once he would have shown the proper respect for Tareq’s position. No more.
Tareq looked at Ky as the staffer hurried out.
Neither man needed to speak. It was likely that Tareq, whose affiliation with the arrested director was well known. As was Ky’s friendship with Tareq.
It was a good chance that Tareq, and possibly Ky, might be arrested, too.  Given the circumstances, Ky’s dual citizenship might not protect him. And, in the chaos that was Egypt these days, he might just disappear.
“Follow me,” Tareq said.



An eerie tension filled the hotel. It seemed as if all the guests were gathered in the lobby. Judging by their dress and luggage, more than a few had packed hastily. Some looked at each other uncertainly, others rushed around being unusually obsequious to the bell staff – who also looked unsettled. Where days before the guests had barely acknowledged the staff, now they said please and thank you.
Raissafrowned. She could hardly complain about the change in the behavior, but the tension around the eyes of the employees was telling.
Something was wrong.
Then she saw Ryan and Komi moving toward her through the crowd. Even usually unflappable Komi seemed unsettled. Ryan looked around them warily.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“You haven’t been watching TV,” Ryan said.
It was a statement. Raissa shook her head. She hadn’t. She never did, as he well knew. It wasn’t her favorite modern invention.
This time, though, it seemed that she should have.
His voice low, eyeing the crowd and the staff, Ryan said, “The whole country is blowing up.”
Raissa stared at them. “What do you  mean  it’s blowing up?”
“The demonstrations in the Square,” Komi said in his measured way, “have turned violent.”
“A reporter was assaulted,” Ryan added. “Among others.”
Given the circumstances, she was grateful that they’d sent John ahead to Washington D. C. to arrange transportation, but John wasn’t the right person for something like this. He liked having a 50 caliber gun between his legs too much.
It pained Ky to think of giving up his airplane, but there was no choice, it couldn’t be flown across the ocean. So John had been sent home in search of one, while she and Ky finished up here.
And what of Ky? she wondered. He was at the museum with Tareq.
She turned to look out across the bustling lobby.
A tall, strong figure with thick, dark wavy hair was making his way through the throng. It was as if she had conjured Ky up, Tareq at his heels.
Relief washed through her. It had been difficult enough to let Khai go all those millennia ago, to lose him, to lose Ky, so soon? To be separated again? It wrenched at her.
But it was him.
She went to meet him gratefully.
“You heard?” Ky said, gathering her into his arms.
“Ryan and Komi just told me,” Raissa answered.
His voice low, Tareq said, “They just arrested the director.”
Startled, Raissa asked, “Why?”
Although she’d only seen the man at a distance, his reputation preceded him. And Tareq respected him. The man had helped get the permits needed.
She looked at Tareq’s dark eyes, at the worry in them.
Tightening his arm around her in answer to her look, Ky said, “We don’t know enough, but what we do know is that in circumstances like these, if they arrested the director…”
“I might be next,” Tareq said.
“And we’re foreigners,” Ky said.
It was his middle eastern features that had gotten him this far, but that wouldn’t help Raissa with her golden hair or pale, clearly American Ryan, and it would make it easier to spot them if the authorities were looking for them.
“We can’t let them find the Tomb,” Raissa said.
Knowing what was in it?
“No,” Ky said.
They couldn’t risk the Djinn being accidentally, or deliberately, freed.
“And we can’t stay, either,” Tareq added. “I need to get home. If they are looking for me, they’ll look there first.”
Komi looked at them apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Professor,” he said, his voice soft, his eyes worried. “But it would be better for me to go home. Things there are not going well either. My wife is there, alone.”
“And you’d have a better chance if you weren’t with us,” Ky said, understanding.
With his features and dark skin Komi was definitely African.  He’d have a better chance, and be less suspect, if he wasn’t associated with Europeans. He was right, too, about the spreading unrest. The Arab Spring was spreading everywhere. If it weren’t for the darker side of it, Ky would have been cheering it.
As it was?
Komi looked at him. “Yes.”
“It’s all right, Komi,” Ky said. “We’ll miss you. Good luck.”
Clearly unhappy, Komi hurried away.
“Raissa?” Ky said.
With a sigh and a wry smile, Raissa said, “I know.”
Given the circumstances, she’d have to wear an abaya once again.
The black garment was hot and stifling, but the best way to hide her hair and make her less noticeable. After all, she’d used it herself when they’d first met.