Debra discusses backstory.
Ah...the B word. Backstory in a novel is always a tricky thing. Questions abound. When/where should backstory be used? How much backstory should be used? Why should backstory be used?
It's not a good plan to include a ton of backstory (aka backstory dump) in the first chapter. It's best to keep the action moving forward. Too much backstory right away slows down the action. However, not enough backstory hints can leave us with no sense of the internal conflicts our characters are facing. Backstory is important because it builds our characters. Our characters act and feel the way they do because of things that have happened in the past.
How we show that to our readers can make or break a story. Hints are good. Little tidbits, thoughts, and emotions sprinkled in throughout the course of the story as the plot unfolds help convey a sense of character, but keep us firmly rooted in the present tense of the story. Flashbacks can work, if they aren't overdone. Too many flashbacks can make our readers wonder which story we're trying to tell.
My current WIP is a spin-off of my Corral series. It's been interesting building some backstory for my characters while maintaining the timeline of already established events from prior novels.
Until next time,
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