By: Roz Morris
There are two fundamental questions with back story. The first is how to present it (e.g., a vivid flashback), and the second is whether those back story events should be used as part of the main plot.
Here are 4 ways that back story might be sabotaging your novel’s effectiveness.
1. Your novel’s most engaging events are buried in a summary of back story.
I often see manuscripts where the writer has invented a detailed and dramatic back story for a character, but the main story events lack impact and substance. There is no meat left
for the book’s real-time plot and so the novel seems
empty and static. Of course, the story may be precisely that; the character
might be coming to terms with past mistakes. The focus might be the finer
detail of living with a burden, or leaving behind a golden period that is gone
forever. But just as often, this approach is not deliberate and the writer is
scrabbling around, trying to find stuff for the characters to do. They don’t
realize they ’ve already got fantastic ideas, but hidden them in the back story.
Could that back story be used as a fully fleshed flashback so the reader could participate? Or, more radically, could those same ideas be extracted from the past and reworked as a forward-moving plot? Consider whether your back story ideas should be front story.
2. Your novel relies on back story and secret wounds instead of character development.
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