How soon should I give a character backstory?

Home Forums Writer Help – a QnA for aspiring authors How soon should I give a character backstory?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Matthew Brown 1 year, 4 months ago.

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  • #355

    Jason Latnar

    I have three characters that I have written a complete backstory for. The opening chapter is lots of action and there is no time for backstory.

    Should I put each backstory in a chapter of its own before the action or is it okay to drop the backstory in later?

  • #357

    Matthew Brown

    Backstory writing is a great tool for you the writer. However, the backstory is not the story you are telling. The current story is.

    You have done the right thing by starting with the action. That is a great way to start a story. Not the only way but a dependable way to get the ball rolling.

    When it comes to showing your homework, that is giving the backstory for your characters, if you “drop it in” it will almost always be wrong. The reason is that you have to stop the current story to tell another story. Generally, this is known as doing an “info dump” and it is not a good idea.

    Instead, drip-feed, the backstory into the main narrative only at the point hat it first becomes relevant. That way you will not slow the current story to tell readers what they need to know and what you do tell them is instantly relevant to the story they are reading and, therefore, interesting.

  • #361

    Jason Latnar

    Thanks. I will try not to “info dump” from now on.

    Drip, drip, drip, goes the backstory.

  • #367

    Matthew Brown

    That’s the way to do it.

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