Thursday, July 18, 2013

Backstory

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today we're gonna talk about backstory and how to introduce it to your reader. There are many ways to accomplish this, and what we want to avoid is the information dump. Don't know what an information dump is? Well, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!


An information dump is when you stop the story you're telling to give paragraph upon paragraph of your character's past. This isn't good practice when writing because, usually, the past isn't filled with a lot of tension and can tend to drag along. While you may get one great scene with tension, the rest is oftentimes unnecessary.

So, how can you show a character's past without dumping information on your reader? There are a few ways:

The Flashback
These can happen in little snips of memories brought on by something that's occurring in your character's life or something they see/hear. Just like in real life, certain things bring up items from the past. Don't allow your protagonist to dwell though. Give a little and move on.

Conversation
When one character is talking to another, they'll sometimes talk about life and their past. Use this to insert snips and quips into the storyline. Don't let the conversation drag out too long, and remember to make the speech sound natural. If you have trouble with dialogue, take a look at these exercises on practicing writing dialogue: Dialogue Exercises. You'll find links to fifteen writing exercises on that page.

Contextual Additions
Things you add in the text as you write can show some of a character's past. Whatever action they're engaged in, shoot a sentence of memory through it and allow that to paint your protagonist's past with vivid colors. This also works to show your character's personality.

Other People
Use some of the other people in the story to tell about your character. Have them talk behind the person's back, make remarks, or even react to the protagonist's presence in the room. If people are smiling and hugging your leading lady/man, then you know the others are happy to see that person. When people laugh, jeer, or avoid the main character, it tells the reader something's up and can lead to further discovery in other ways.

Just remember to KISS your reader (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and stay away from too much backstory in a single place. Avoid the blahs.

I hope this reference comes in handy for you all.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

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