Most of us know what backstory is and that our stories need it, are aware of the various delivery methods and even spend countless hours developing intricate histories for beloved characters, but knowing these things isn’t the same as successfully revealing the appropriate information at the right time.
This article will help you determine the best place to insert backstory by:
Which Backstory is Important?
The most important point when deciding which backstory to include at any point in a story, is whether or not it’s relevant to what’s going on in the main story. Does it explain why a character is behaving a certain way or what is driving them to persist in the face of adversity? Does it give credibility to their decisions and choices? If not, then it probably isn’t needed.
The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” Henry Green
How Much in One Place?You may have heard my saying that backstory is like a potent spice: it’s like a flavour your can’t quite pick lurking in the layers of a curry. You know it’s there and it enhances the flavour, but it’s intangible and fleeting. Use it sparingly!
My preference is almost always to reveal backstory in small amounts. By doing this, you will reduce the likelihood of telling that distances readers, pulling them out of the main story and unnecessarily slowing the pace.
Of course, there are exceptions to every guideline and flashbacks are one instance where you can get away with a longer passage of backstory because you’re not just telling about the past, you’re transporting readers back to that time and place so they can feel, see, taste and hear it for themselves.
Reveal backstory without interrupting the flow of the main story by determining what information is important at that particular moment in the story and releasing snippets instead of large amounts.
For further guidance about developing backstory, the various delivery methods and how to use them for best effect, put your name on the waiting list for Sandy Vaile's most popular course, Write Backstory With Confidence: How to weave the past in without information dump telling.