Notes on Back StoryA Lesson by Writers Essentials
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Notes on Backstory
Show enough backstory to allow the reader to learn and make assumptions about what remains behind the curtain of time, yet continues to influence the characters world view, attitudes, decisions, and actions.
Your characters' actions need to have psychological validity and a visible connection to some behavioral explanation with roots in the past. Backstory is how you make that happen.
Putting too much backstory early in the book to divulge information about your characters can bore your readers and destroy any suspense you may have established.
Withhold information from readers.
Withhold information from the main characters
Have the characters withhold information from the readers and one another.
5 Steps to avoid boredom in a backstory
1. Action! Action! Action!
Sometimes a story - while pausing from suspense - may come off as boring and pointless to readers who are impatient. Try not to base the entire idea on backstory so readers don't lose interest. Even if the moment is random but supports the story a little bit of action can keep readers hooked in long enough.
2. Make Danger Believable
Don’t pause the suspense for the characters to feed into backstory. This will make the seemingly dangerous atmosphere unreal to readers and most audiences prefer to believe what they’re reading. Blend backstory in and keep the characters running.
3. Let Emotions Run Wild
There doesn’t need to be danger in order for the characters to be emotional. Emotion is key to situations that lack that extra “oof!” from suspense and physical drama. This also keeps readers interested and in tune with the characters.
4. Broken Record Effect
Even though repetition in a story can be annoying to most, it can also help a backstory along the line. Announcing a piece of information for the first time might not mean much to readers but repeating it a maximum of 3 times in different parts of the story can let them know that it’s a serious influence to the plot/backstory.
5. Don’t be a Mind Reader
Thoughts of a character to another can ruin atmosphere of a dramatic scene. For example: Tom could be wondering if Phil is aggravated at him from his behavior but then Phil could think about the argument him and his son had that morning. Tom doesn’t know why Phil is truly mad, but the readers do. See how it’s ruined?
Added on July 3, 2015
Last Updated on July 3, 2015
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