Monday, August 22, 2016

Time and Place for Backstory

There is a time and place for backstory and the beginning of your novel is not it. Beginning with backstory is a good way to get automatically rejected by many agents and editors. However, backstory is not the same as a prologue. Backstory is talking about something that has already happened where a prologue is something that is happening~even if it's in the past. The difference is action. Most agents and editors want the story to start right away. Readers want a sense that something is happening, there is something at stake, and there is a way to save what is at stake.

The inciting incident should be as close to the beginning of your novel as you can get it. This doesn't mean it has to be in the first chapter so long as what comes first is pertinent to the story and is exciting, suspenseful, or interesting enough to start the novel with. Not sure what the inciting incident is? It is the event which occurs and sets the entire novel in motion. Example: In Harry Potter it was the arrival of the letter from Hogwarts.

Backstory can be sprinkled in later, after the reader is invested in the character and is hooked enough to keep turning pages. Only then will they tolerate or enjoy the lull of backstory. Five to ten pages in before doing it is a good rule to follow. Wait as long as you can and use that hidden info to build suspense, tension, and curiosity in the reader. And when you do bring it in, don't do paragraph upon paragraph of info dump for no reason. Have the backstory triggered by something currently going on so it flows naturally. Think of it like flavoring your food. If you overdo it, no one will eat it. If it is sprinkled in at the right time and just the right amount, it will enrich the story~not detract from it.