Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Few Thoughts On Writing Backstory In Fiction

Over the many years that I've belonged to writing groups, whether face-to-face or online, the question of backstory in fiction comes up and is hotly debated. 

Some writers love using backstory as a technique while others think it detracts from the main story. The poster above brings out another viewpoint. I wonder how often this occurs. How many writers end up with a better story in the backstory than they do for the main event? 

Before we go farther, maybe backstory should be defined. It's everything that happened before the current story you are writing. Those things that have a bearing on your characters' lives and the eventgs in the main story. So, yes, it can be an important part of your novel or short story. Oviously, it's easier to incorporate backstory into a novel than a short story. I think some short story writers who write the 2,000-3,000 word stories can do it but those short-shorts leave you no room to do so.

Writing a large chunk of backstory often ends up with a lot of telling rather than showing. I have read books that choose to use large amounts of the book with backstory and all too often, I begin to lose the main story. As a reader, I don't like jumping around from time to time. But that's me. I'm sure there are readers who don't have any problem whatsoever with it. 

My personal choice would be to weave the backstory into the main story. It helps build your characters in a reader's mind, dribbling bits and pieces of what occurred in the life of the character. 

When you want to use backstory, ask yourself:

1. Why is it necessary to the main story?

2. Do I trust my reader to pick up on backstory that is interwoven in the main story?

3. Do I want to make sure my reader gets all the facts?

4. If I write a lot of backstory, will I end up with two separate stories?

5. Why do I like writing backstory?

Writers have varied opinions on the use of backstory. They are individuals who look at this topic from various perspectives and when the subject arises, many argue vehemently for one side or the other. Anyuone have thoughts to share on this topic?

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