Is back story sabotaging your novel? Guest spot at Jane Friedman

friedmanI’m at Jane Friedman’s blog today, where she’s showcasing a section of the plot book that deals with back story.

Misusing back story is one of the most common problems I see as an editor. Writers bury their best events in the back story, and then struggle to think up enough spectacular ideas for the main narrative. Or they rely on secret, past wounds instead of character development. Or they set up secret traumas that are never used in the forward action. Lastly, they heap all the back story into the beginning of the book, stalling the action – the famous back story dump.

But back story is also important. It lets you write with authority. And there are moments when you can play it out and deeply enrich your readers’ experience. So how can you wield back story with panache?

Hop along to Jane’s blog to find out.

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  1. #1 by jcucreativewriting on February 2, 2015 - 9:14 pm

  2. #2 by mgm75 on February 3, 2015 - 11:57 am

    I know how much back story annoys me, but I’m in a situation with a WIP where back story is vital to what happens to the characters during the course of the narrative. That said, I have been very careful not to make the events an info dump. I’ve written flashback scenes to work in to the narrative so we learn about the characters as the story goes and specifically, learning about those pivotal events as they become important to the story.

    It seems to be working so far and it’s easier to see mistakes other writers make when you are also a reader🙂

    • #3 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on February 3, 2015 - 1:15 pm

      Mgm, you’re right. Reading is the best way to learn. And a lot of the ‘front story’ in my novels actually began as back story – until I realised I should make it unfold in real time. Have fun!

  3. #4 by ologun36 on February 3, 2015 - 2:48 pm

    This is a good and specific piece on the subject that I tend to put under the rules of information distribution. I already wrote in some blogs myself about considering where and when to fill in the back story if any. But anyway, I was wondering what your thoughts were on other issues regarding what I referred to as the authors sort of FBI profiling for their characters…do too many characters have issues these days e.g. Personality disorders, eating,, emotional etc etc. This may not be the case or may have always been the case that on top of back story being fed in the wrong place or time and way, we also get the same recycled traumas regarding protagonists pasts. I could be wrong here & maybe I’m thinking that in classical style and with book series you can start with a fresh pallet of a protagonist and add the traumas as you go in real time/ no hidden or traumatic past required. I did however for the lead in written work add a slight personality disorder and did a majority of so said back-story as full chapters and timeline to keep the action fresh and alternate to the present tense in the book. Might have worked,.. I don’t know as of yet. This article gets me thinking though, thank you.

  4. #5 by ologun36 on February 3, 2015 - 2:52 pm

    Reblogged this on VERSION.

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