The importance of backstory in your fiction

2015_July-backstoryOver at the excellent Writers in the Storm blog, author Kathryn Craft has an excellent post entitled Backstory matters.

Backstory is one of those controversial issues today. While you certainly don’t want to dump all of a character’s backstory into the opening chapter (since it tends to slow down the pace), you do need to sprinkle enough backstory in to understand your character’s motivations and obstacles to achieving his or her objectives.

As Craft points out, this is the only way we can understand exactly why a character reacts as he or she does, and we as readers are often privy to more information than other characters in a book have – so we are expecting certain types of behavior when we know a character well.

I’m a sucker for backstory. I love authors who delve deep into the psychology of their characters, and if I’m going to dedicate so many hours to being inside the head of a novel’s protagonist, I don’t want a lot of open questions. I want to know what makes him or her tick. But not all readers feel the same, and I often hear from some that it’s best to keep backstory to a minimum since it slows down the story.

In her article, Craft notes that she also uses her author’s imagination in real life – imagining backstories for people she meets to explain their behavior. Probably good practice for honing one’s skills!

So, dear authors and readers, what do you think of backstory? Love it? Hate it? Would love to hear your views…

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