The Backstory Blues


Kristen Lamb: Instead of dumping a crude flashback in the beginning so your reader will understand Such-and-Such…let them wonder. It’s good for them and it’s good for your career.



Backstory is the part of the story that takes place before your novel, novella, or short story begins. It’s the past.

I’ve heard writers say, “But if my readers don’t know all the events in the past that lead up to the events in the book, they won’t understand.”

Now it’s true that some parts of the past must be made known, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend pages and pages dropping that information on the reader’s head. Pick a few details, a few important bits, and sprinkle them through the book. Do it when and where the reader needs to know. And give the reader only what she needs.

Too much backstory will bog a novel down and throw your timeline all out of whack.  It will kill the forward momentum of your story. Nothing — or almost nothing — will provoke me into throwing a book across the room and marking the writer down as one I’ll never read again more quickly than too darned much backstory.

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