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So Tell Me: Backstory

If you need to include a certain amount of back story rather early in the story, what, in your opinion, is the best way to go about it?

A combination?

Or, does this signal that the story should start elsewhere?


Jill Wheeler said...

I think a combination of all three. I used dialogue to convey some things, like the fact that my MC's mom is never around. But then I added a whole flashback scene to show a kiss that happened a year before that would introduce complications into the current characters' relationships.

I think as long as you don't have paragraphs and paragraphs of "telling" the backstory, you're good.

Casey Something said...

Thanks for your input Jill! I was trying to avoid "telling" too much in the narrative, so I put most of it in dialogue. Then I got worried that my characters were telling each other too much that they both already knew, so I went back through and I've evened it out a little. I don't think a flashback would work with this, so hopefully I've presented the info okay.

Fran Caldwell said...

Sometimes you can omit the whole thing. It could well have no bearing on where your story is going. Just mention it, if necessary, as a quick memory, or in conversation.

When we sit down with new friends, this stuff comes out gradually, in snippets, and that's what I try to do for the reader.

It's not easy, when you're dying to tell all!

Some of the backstory that I've taken out is now in another file, ready for the next book. Could be the basis of a whole new plot.

Heather Hansen said...

You probably need to start somewhere else… but since it’s a rough, it doesn’t really matter. Writing the back story might help you see where to start it.

Let me add… I hate flashbacks. HATE THEM!

PJ Hoover said...

I have a hard time with most flashbacks. Writing them and reading them. When done well, they are awesome, but so much they just stand out as exactly what they are.
So hard on backstory. I hear so often "this needs to be brought closer to the front" but if I did that with everything, the front would be nothing but backstory. Right?
Good discussion.

Casey Something said...

Thanks for all the input everyone!

I read in one of my books (not sure which at the moment) that if you have a lot of back story in the dialogue and/or blocks of narrative than you're just not being creative enough. That's what brought this topic to mind. I feel like I'm working on a giant puzzle here - trying to figure out where to fit all this information!

Eventually, I might try omitting the back story from the first chapter all together and see what it does. Maybe I just *think* it's necessary right now...

I know I should really just push on though. I'm struggling to turn off my inner editor again. I'll never finish anything if I keep up this way...