Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Backstory?

Every novel must include some background explanation on your characters—everybody has a past that shapes who they are. I know many people don’t like background because it tends to stop the forward flow of a story. And no one wants that, right? But background information is essential for the reader to understand the story, or your character’s reason for a certain choice, behaviour, or attitude.

However, the trick is to find clever ways of working background information into your story so your reader hardly notices it’s there.

Backstory adds characterization, story dimension and helps to draw the reader into the story. Therefore, whenever possible, cut background information into bite size pieces so your reader isn’t smothered under a heaping dump of info. Pare down the information so the reader gets only what’s necessary for the story to make sense right now. And find ways of presenting background information through dialogue, because dialogue is far more active than narrative.

Not only does giving the reader small tasters of backstory make the information less intrusive, it also helps to build suspense and can move your story forward, making your reader anxious to know the rest of the backstory.

Drip-feeding your reader background raises questions in the reader’s mind—questions the reader must keep turning the pages to find answers to. So you look for ways to withhold background information in order to create a question which pushes your reader through you story.
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