Timing Is Everything – So how do we sneak that backstory into the novel? As I mentioned yesterday – it must be weaved, dropped, or told a little at a time that best serves the story.
One of the best things I was told as a new writer was, “Remove the first chapter of your book. This is where your book should start. Is it exciting – filled with action and dialog? If the answer is yes, start the book there – and weave the ‘backstory’ into the story as it evolves.” That was some great writing advice.
As we develop our story – we explore what our characters are and what they want or are planning on doing. But we need to get to know their past in order to know what their future holds. That doesn’t mean the reader has to be told this ‘backstory’ all in the first chapter. And remember – if the reader doesn’t know everything right away – you have the ability to keep them guessing - what is making him/her tick?
Ask yourself, what does my reader need to know? Not everything in a person’s life is important to share with the reader. If it doesn’t further the story or share something important about the characters personality – leave it out.
I read in an article once, “In almost all cases, if it’s backstory, it needs to be cut.” I typed that up and posted it on my office board. It’s a great reminder – don’t get caught up with information overload.
Wow – I guess that pretty much sums it up. When you think about it - no matter where we begin our stories, there’s always something that came before. What does the reader need to know? Hold details back as long as you can. Give that backstory a little at a time and you will keep your reader in the present . . . turning the pages for more!