Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Have you voted for the title you like? It closes August 30th.

How do you add backstory? Dialogue? In SEVENTY-TWO HOURS, I have the girls talking about the old times they had together. Very effective and easy to do.

Or do you use flashbacks? I do have Anna thinking about times gone by. The only thing I don't like about this is I HAD to use the word had. Since it was past perfect. So I didn't use it too much. But I had to use it some. When you read the novel, you'll see why. :)

Going over past events in your character's head. This is a great way to weave in backstory. Because it is so natural. I'm always going over events in my head. So it is very  normal for my character to do this. Not too much, mind you. I think it can slow down the narrative if used too much.

Why use backstory? The reader needs to know significant things about your character. If it's relevant. Like Anna's diabetes. Anna and Claire's past friendship. Stuff like that.  It shows why a character acts a certain way. But we don't want to bore the readers to tears. So we stuff it in in short snippets. No one wants to read three pages of backstory. UGH. And NEVER start your novel with backstory. YAWN

And remember that lack of info is just what the doctor ordered for your reader. Makes them curious and that's a very good thing for your book. Anyone have anything to add? Tell it to me. :)


  1. Especially love the last paragraph. The urge to do an info dump should be avoided with all your might!

  2. Backstory--eeep. I tend to add all of it in my first draft to get out of my system. LOL Then I highlight it and try to separate and spread it around. :)

  3. Always a problem for me as everything seems important! I like Jennifer's idea of getting it all out of the system in the firts draft! :)


  4. Dialogue is a great way to weave in backstory as long as the characters aren't saying what they already know for no reason. There needs to be a current point or argument or emotional incident that brings up that stuff. Let's see, an example....
    Not good:
    "You remember the time I fell down the steps and you laughed at me?"
    "I don't like you making fun of me. I'm still mad that you laughed when I fell down the steps."

    I love your last graph. I know sometimes I fall in the trap of thinking I have to spell it all out or the reader wont' get it. Not true.

  5. I weave in backstory throughout the first few chapters. A bit here, a bit there, and a bit almost everywhere. No long passages of backstory.

    For example: in my current project, I mentioned that two of the characters had been friends since kindergarten. A bit later on I added a bit more.

    I think the key, at least in my delusional little world, to backstory is: don't overwhelm the reader with too much info.


  6. I love to weave in the backstory in the first few chapters. I try to avoid long pages of it, a couple of paragraphs here and there of back story will not harm, but too much info can make the story dull.

  7. "make them curious"--that's a great tip. Too much backstory has been a problem for me. I'll look at it differently now :-) thanks!

  8. I think backstory is necessary for orientation and grounding. Making it feel like it's NOT backstory is the art. I'm still working on it, LOL! :D

  9. I would agree. I like a bit of backstory as long as it's not too much. I'm not a huge fan of replaying long flashbacks.

  10. The big thing about backstory is that it always has to be relevant to the current scene and pertain to the action. If it doesn't shed light on an immediate piece of conflict or choice the character must make, or enhance their current emotional reaction to an event, it will only slow the pace or stall the storyline.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  11. A little "tease" of interesting backstory in a dialogue section can keep the reader hooked, as long as it's not overdone. I think it does give some kind of foundation to a character.

  12. backstory is always a tricky thing. I've found that bits and pieces work better than whole paragraphs... you know, just a line or two as the reader moves forward.

  13. Hey, you won a book on my blog!

    Shoot me an e-mail with the adress u want me 2 send it to. :)

    jennifer AT jennifershirk DOT com


  14. Honestly, I had no idea what the best way to add backstory is, but after reading all these comments, I think I'll steal a few ideas from everyone else! Great post.

  15. I took a workshop with Jeanette Ingold several years ago. I think it was her who said something like: use an eye-dropper to put your backstory in.

  16. I think backstory is certainly important and it sounds like your advice is what I would think is the best way to get it out. It's one of those things you really have to be careful with. I need backstory, but it's important to keep it from being confusing!

  17. New follower stopping by to say hi and be sure to check out my weekly meme Book Review of the Week-->

  18. Thanks for following my blog! Aspiring writers should support each other. Your blog is great so I'll follow you too.

  19. Thanks for stopping by my blog! :]

    I'm horrible with backstory; I tend to always leave it out at first.

    Have a great weekend!

  20. Just hopping by to say hello! I am following and can’t wait to read more from your blog. Here is my blog

  21. Hi. Happy Friday!! I'm a new follower and if you have time, come visit me at

    Have a great blogging day!


  22. (\___/)
    Hello, visting you from Follow Friday.
    I think this is a marvelous way to meet bloggers both old and new.
    I'm #103, Just stopped by to wish you a great weekend.
    This week my trip is brought to you by the number 3.

  23. I like a sprinkling of info but still working on what the right balance is.
    Blessings and hugs:)

  24. This was one of the biggest issues Julie and I noticed while teaching last week's fiction track. But we all disagree on HOW MUCH.

    Sigh. So much of writing is individual taste. I DO NOT ascribe to the NO backstory for 50 pages.


  25. Hi, Robyn!! Thanks for leaving me the PB link - I didn't know anything about it, so I'll definitely be checking it out. Thanks you so much for your prayers. My friend is struggling. Her faith is as strong as ever, but she hasn't been able to pray. I think she's giving God a touch of the silent treatment right now. She needs our prayers and I love knowing you are out there adding to the voices.

    You are a wonderful friend, my bloggy buddy, and I've missed you! :-)

  26. Good points, Robyn. The authors I love give little hints to the backstory and it never overwhelms. I try to emulate them but don't always succeed!


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