Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
B is for Backstory
Welcome to day two of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Yesterday we started the Write On Sisters 3, 2, 1 … BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing series with A for Antagonists.
Today we reverse course and take hold of that sometimes wildly out of control comet, backstory.
Consider backstory the preparation time before the launch. Countless years of research and training go into every step. Someone carefully designed the rocket, and then others built the rocket. People trained for a decade or longer to join the flight crew. But the real story of any space mission starts at liftoff.
3 Tips for using backstory more effectively:
Start slowly. It’s unwise to open any story with pages of history and world building. That’s called a data dump, and for most readers, it ends up feeling like a history lecture. It’s better to go a bit too light on backstory than to go too heavy.
Get creative and scatter the backstory around. Bring it in as dialogue, as character memories, and even with your setting descriptions. Use excerpts from letter, or break the fourth wall and tell the reader important facts as the narrator.
Dump it. Chances are you have too much backstory. Trust the reader to puzzle things out for themselves. It’s okay to leave readers with a few lingering questions. A book secret is a good thing, and leaves readers wanting more.
2 Examples of good backstory craft:
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: I love this book because of the quirky and fantastic way story structure and POV are used. So much of what we learn about the backstory comes from the Guide telling us crazy, mind-bending facts. It’s almost always humorous, and it flawlessly relates to the current plot situation.
I Hunt Killers: Jazz’s dad is a serial killer serving time in prison, but that is all backstory when this novel starts with a copycat killer terrorizing the town. The reader is naturally intrigued by Jazz’s unusual and terrifying childhood, but the author doesn’t tell us the whole crazy story up front. Instead, Jazz’s past is doled out in tiny tidbits throughout the novel, usually sparked by something happening in the present story and always at a moment that adds to the intrigue of the current situation. And the most horrifying backstory reveals coincide with the scary climax in perfect harmony!
1 Link for more help:
I’ve decided to include a link from another blog, because I know you’ll find it helpful.
Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.
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