Baby Got Backstory (Part 1)

Backstory presents a challenge to a lot of writers. Not the writing of it. We’re pretty good at that. We can dream up plenty of history about the guy down the street who likes to wear pink, patent leather go-go boots to water his azaleas. Trouble is, some writers don’t know when to stop, or where and how to work it into the story.

There are no hard and fast rules about backstory; like most things in writing, it depends. Readers need to know enough to become invested in the story, but not so much that they get distracted from the action. Some genres need more than others. If you build worlds from scratch, you probably need to provide more explanation than those of us who set their stories on Earth as we know it. You may need to tell the reader that there are two suns, six moons, and seven species of sentient beings on your fictional planet because the rest of the universe exploded, leaving only these survivors, who all speak different languages and would hate each other even if they could communicate. Readers of fantasy and science fiction probably expect a certain amount of backstory.

In other types of fiction, particularly contemporary, less is more, and in all types, how you use it matters. Continue reading “Baby Got Backstory (Part 1)”

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