How Do You Like Your Backstory?

Reading King of Thorns got me thinking about backstory. Like most aspects of writing, there are no hard and fast rules to backstory. How you handle it has more to do with your personal preferences.

For those who don’t know, backstory is any information about a character’s past. It’s the things that happened before the events in your story took place.

Like I said in the previous post, I don’t like it when authors spend a whole chapter on backstory. Sometimes it’s necessary but, I still find it annoying. I don’t want to be spoon fed all the information at once, I’d rather get it in bits and pieces so I have the whole picture by the end.

With my novel, I wanted to include some journal entries from the past but I was weary given how I feel about backstory. I tried to keep the entries as brief as possible without making them seem rushed. It took me awhile to get it right.

Also, in college, I learned we were to keep backstory out of the first couple of chapters. If the reader doesn’t care about the character yet, why would they want a chunk of information about their past? This, I agree with but again, personal preference. If you have to dump backstory, stick it as close to the end as possible.

That being said, some authors could go against my personal preferences to write a completely brilliant story.

How do you like your backstory?

5 thoughts on “How Do You Like Your Backstory?

  1. I agree, I can't stand a whole chapter of backstory. I prefer it in small doses, cleverly hidden in the dialogue or narrative. A whole chunk of backstory all at once usually stops the forward motion in my opinion. But you're right, sometimes rules must be broken. Great post!

  2. I'd rather backstory be woven throughout the story as needed, and most times I prefer it in dialogue form.

  3. With my main characters, and most of my supporting characters, I sprinkle bits and pieces of backstory throughout the narrative, where it seems appropriate, to build up characterization.

  4. I agree with your readers here. I like it in dialogue if it's natural and fitting. Then I like it in small doses. Backstory isn't as important as the ongoing storyline, so it should not distract.

  5. I maintain there's no significant difference between backstory & 'not back story' … all storylines are ongoing & the distinction is largely illusorary.

    Summed up in my blog post, 'There is no NOW in storyland'.


    None of these arguments can trunp the reader's personal feeling about the issue of course.

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