Newspaper Backstory

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A quick, easy way to give the backstory of a character is through a Flashback, but perhaps you don't want that. Takes too long and inserting a scene suddenly ruins the vibe. Expo Speak, then? No, perhaps not. The dialogue sounds very unnatural. So instead, have the camera pan over and briefly pause over a board or a box where there's a bunch of newspaper clippings about what happened before your work takes place. Non-obstructive and quickly establishes the background of your story.

Closely related to Spinning Paper. See also Viewer-Friendly Interface and Scrapbook Story.


Examples:

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     Films — Animated  

  • Cars: McQueen discovers that Doc Hudson used to be famous racer the Hudson Hornet when he finds Doc's garage full of newspaper clippings, including one for the big crash that led to his retirement.
  • The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible keeps a bulletin board full of clippings from his superhero days.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • The opening scene of Back to the Future (the first one) pans over a bunch of clocks and a corkboard. Pinned onto the board are two news articles, which hint at Doc Brown's life before the film takes place. Pictured above.
  • Misery: Paul realizes just who he's dealing with when he finds a scrapbook filled with clippings showing that Annie had been charged numerous times for infanticide while she was a nurse.
  • Dirk Pitt's backstory as a Navy SEAL-turned-archaeologist is given this way early in Sahara.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shows the titular character's backstory near the end of the movie, where his father had pinned up newspapers on a cork board, while also showing that the elder Wonka was still proud of his son despite what happened.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: As Eddie Valiant mourns his late brother Teddy, the camera pans over Teddy's scrapbook, which contains newspaper clippings of their cases involving Toons.

     Live-Action TV  

  • The opening of Doogie Howser, M.D. has four of these in the first 20 seconds, detailing how Doogie got perfect scores on his SATs at age 6, breezed through high school in nine weeks, graduated from Princeton at age 10 and passed the medical board at age 14.

     Western Animation  

  • Family Guy: The episode "Three Kings" parodied the Misery example by having Brian look through a series of clippings indicating Stewie being a serial killer, followed by a Marmaduke comic.


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