As we discussed last week, backstory is the story before the beginning of your book. All of our characters have one. However, as with cayenne pepper—sprinkle it on. Lightly. Very lightly!
But, how much?
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.
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