A published writer said to me that a really good story does not need any backstory. I had to think about that for a little while. I must admit that the pull to reveal all the background information about my Main Character (MC) or the backstory of the novel is quite strong. In fact, it is almost a compunction with me. How on earth is my reader going to know that my main character is the way she is if I do not mention that her grandparent has died or that her father has left them? The mistake I made (and I should have known better) is that I did a major info dump right at the beginning of my novel. magnifying glass

Oh, I interspersed it with the action but there was no denying it was a major info dump in the first four pages and at this point of the game, shame on me! What is so damn embarrassing is that as soon as it was pointed out to me, it was painfully obvious. Instead of dropping my MC right in the middle of the action in the opening pages (or ideally, the opening lines), I went right into backstory–all the stuff that had happened to bring her to the action. Rewriting it, I dropped most of the backstory and then dropped my MC right into the action. As it should be. Once I removed the backstory, I saw that a) it really was not needed and b) I began to show instead of tell.

This is not to say that sometimes backstory is not needed. Because sometimes it is. It is important. But again, if it does not advance the story or if it bogs it down, it needs to be dropped. Backstory should be seamless, subtle and unobtrusive. Rather than writing paragraphs explaining backstory or using flashbacks, try paring it down and blending your backstory one sentence at a time. Drip–feeding your back story will create a nice pace, curiosity in the reader and tension.

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About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

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