Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's wrong with backstory?

Judging contests like RWA's RITA and Golden Heart is a great way to figure out what's really behind all those pesky writing rules. For example, we all know "show don't tell" but the fact is sometimes telling is exactly what you need, like when you're fast-forwarding.

Backstory is another of those elusive concepts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn't. But when and why?

Sometimes things in your storyworld differ from the reader's normal world. When an item goes against expectation and makes a difference for the current action, you actually should include a brief explanation.

Backstory doesn't work when you invite the reader into your world--but you make her memorize its entire history first. If you did well in history and love memorizing dates, well, know that I'm giving you The Look.

The point is, immerse your reader in your world and give them secure footing. But an interesting story is the most important thing. Wait with the history lesson for a few chapters.

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