Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I know...I'm one day behind in the A-Z Challenge. Today is supposed to my day off from blogging, but I have to catch up. Maybe that should be my C post for tomorrow.  You'll have to check back tomorrow to find out!

Today, the letter B stands for BACKSTORY!

Do you ever feel like you don't know when to add backstory? I always hear from other writers the following things:

1. Never, ever put backstory in the first two pages.
2. Never, ever add backstory in large chucks.
3. Never, ever put backstory as a flashback.

So, when do you add it? When is it too much? When do you have too little backstory?

Well, I'm by no means an expert, but I did a little research. This is what I learned:

From Wikipedia: As a literary device backstory is often employed to lend depth or verisimilitude to the main story. Backstories are usually revealed, partially or in full, chronologically or otherwise, as the main narrative unfolds. However, a story creator may also create portions of a backstory or even an entire backstory that is solely for their own use in writing the main story and is never revealed in the main story. Backstory may be revealed by various means, including flashbacks, dialogue, direct narration, summary, recollection, and exposition.

And here are some tips to avoid the dreaded comment, "This is all info-dumping!"

1. Add backstory as it applies to the situation at hand.
2. If its not a flashback, add in small doses, just a few sentences.
3. Make sure the backstory doesn't take the reader out of the moment.
4. Add backstory as a part of the detailed description.

    For example: John was the blond hair bad boy of our town, whose ghastly over-the-eyebrow scar proved
                         farm boys should never race with their tractors.

5. Lastly, backstory should be just that, BACKSTORY, not the main story. So use sparingly and wisely!


  1. Fantastic post. This is something I always struggle with. As a fantasy writer I do a lot of world building and I do a lot of history writing for that world. I'm always nervous of waffling too much about the history, or not putting enough in to make sense of the now.

    As for the rules, there are always exceptions. JRR Tolkien being one.

  2. I agree, Melissa. It's all about where and when tu use it. It can be very useful if done the right way. :)

  3. Hi
    Great idea for a post (I did backstory for B too).

  4. These are great things to remember. Backstory is often needed but it takes careful planning to do it right.

  5. I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Best of Romance Blog Award.
    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

  6. Thanks so much Deirdra! Made my day!

  7. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments.