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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Back story: Fill in the gaps

back story n, where fictional characters have a background invented, beyond that described in the original novel or filmscript

FUNCTION 1: designed to help actors understand their motivation.

FUNCTION 2: designed to intrigue an audience, and blur the line between documentary and fiction; often part of a viral marketing campaign.

INCIDENCE: hundreds of websites have been set up "proving" the existence of people like Jeanine Salla, allowing you to track her life and even get her phone number. Ring it and you will hear her voicemail. She is merely a character in the film A.I. - Artificial Intelligence - brainchild of the late Stanley Kubrick. The effort is to create a complex illusion of reality.

USAGE: "Coronation Street used to be exceedingly careful about its 'back story' and character development. There is a thick 'bible', built over decades, on everything from when Ken Barlow was first married to whether Percy Sugden would ever wear yellow socks." Daily Mail, 1997

USAGE 2: "Print journalists... have the power to sketch in what screenwriters call the back story; the things in a person's past that tell us about his character. As Aristotle points out in his Rhetoric, what matters most in an argument is the character of the speaker." Eoghan Harris, Sunday Times.

USAGE 3: "When I wrote the back story [to Star Wars], which is what I am getting ready to film now, these were much bigger issues." George Lucas speaking to the Irish Times in 1997.

LINKS: often back story occurs in films of a sci-fi nature. It could be just coincidence that the popular image of sci-fi fans is of trivia-minded obsessives who would love this sort of thing.

ORIGIN: first recorded use of back story was in a 1710 edition of E-cyclopedia (or "Ye Cyclopędia" as it was then known, click here for documentary evidence)

Interesting facts from an imaginary background (and other comments) can be submitted to the E-cyclopedia by clicking here.

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12 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
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