I think our concern here is to be realistic. I’ve heard that only 1% of 1% of all new authors’ books submitted to publishers are published. And that the average number of sales is around 200. The average number—if a very popular book sells 100,000 copies that would mean, on the other end, the author would sell between five and ten books.
Not encouraging prospects. Not if you’re in it for the money.
After a lot of deep thought, I finally came up with two reasons. The first reason I write is the safest for me to tell you. I want to write so I can, hopefully, help readers with their walk with God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Several years ago I had the opportunity to read some wonderful books where the character was
going through something close to what I was dealing with. As I read how the fictional character responded or learned, I realized that I needed to change how I looked at the same issues. Fiction is a low-pressure way to teach God’s truths.
The second reason is harder for me to write about...because I feel vulnerable. I...uh...want to prove to others, even myself, that I can do it. That the lies were just that, lies, That God does not make mistakes, and I can do some things well.
Be vulnerable and share your reasons below in comments.
That’s easy, use VERY little. We need to remember to ask these questions:
* Will the backstory help the reader understand why our characters act/react certain ways to each scene?
* Does knowing some of the backstory help readers understand and more importantly care about our main characters?
* Will the backstory help readers understand and advance the plot?
Now for the difficult part. Where do we put these little seasonings of backstory to spice up our book? When backstory is placed in the wrong spots, it will slow the plot, or the story will come to a complete stop.
There are four important points to remember:
1. Never add backstory in a fast-paced scene, which includes dialogue
2. Always add backstory where it will “fit” with the scene or action, so it feels natural
3. Never cram all backstory in one place
4. Always remember to scatter backstory into action or dialogue scenes
5. Each sprinkling should give just enough backstory to hint at the past – however, somewhere in the last half of the book, make sure all of the backstory has been revealed
6. Remember – action speaks louder than words. Show the characters’ backstory through action –
The man spun on his heel and glared at the ten-year-old boy behind him. Never taking his eyes off the kid, he slowly raised his arm, clenched his fist, and swung.
My heart jumped; heat, along with long remembered pain seared through me. The scene in front of me morphed into the past.
My past and my father.
Your turn. What strategies do you use? How do you add backstory to your writing? Please share your thoughts and ideas below in the comment section.
Backstory is the tale before the beginning of our book. All of our characters have a backstory. But, only a small part is vital to our book—to our readers.
Remember, most backstory is not needed or wanted. If there’s too much, as with cayenne, and it will overwhelm our readers, then they’ll close the book and find something else to read.
So, how do we know what to tell and what to leave out?
As I wrote in my August 19 blog (see Archives) Getting to Know your Characters, authors have to know everything about their characters. 90% to 95% of this knowledge will never be published. However, the information is important so we know everything about them; their personality type, history, goals, fears, the lies they believe, who and/or what they care about, and their motivation.
Once we have detailed information about our characters, store it where it can be referred to often. I write mine on lined paper and place them in a three-ringed binder for just that book.
Next week we will tackle: Where should all the backstory tidbits be sprinkled in your book?
Until then, get to know your characters. Interview them and ask them all the embarrassing questions, just remember that just a small portion of this will be written in your book.
**No gossiping about the characters—unless it is for marketing, of course!
Now it’s your turn. Share your thoughts on backstory in the comments box below.
If there's one thing all writers agree on, it's that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we're passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry...and then start the process all over again as we realize there's room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn't have it any other way.
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