How to Build a Better Backstory

In last week’s blog, we offered three narrative techniques to give your plot a boost. Today we’re taking it a step further and focusing on one narrative technique in particular: building a better backstory.


To begin, a backstory is a narrative technique that’s used when you want your reader to know about a character’s past in order to understand their current situation.


One way to think of a backstory is to picture an iceberg. Sure, you can see the immensity that lies above the surface, but below the surface is where the real story lives. What lies beneath the surface of the iceberg is something much larger that can give insight to what the eye can see.


This is exactly how a backstory works; it provides a sense of history that allows a person to appreciate what they see right in front of them.


Once you start to develop your plot and the reader begins to invest in the characters, it's time to introduce the backstory-narrative technique.


How to Build a Better Backstory:


Everything in moderation – When working a backstory into your plot, there’s a fine line between too much detail and not enough detail. A good rule of thumb is to avoid opening your plot with a backstory. This will likely confuse the reader. Rather, begin your novel with information that your readers are more concerned with, such as what’s happening at the moment. Once you’ve introduced your character and have developed his or her role in the novel, then you can incorporate a backstory into your plot.


Talk about it ­– Another way to incorporate a backstory into your plot is to present it to your readers by way of a dialogue. In this conversation, you can have your characters exchange important information about their backstories. Spice up this exchange by having the two characters sharing this information in a heated argument. Revealing a backstory through a tense situation will keep your readers interested.


Think about it – Another way to build a backstory into your plot is through an inner dialogue. This can be done by incorporating the backstory into the thoughts that are swirling around your character’s mind. This approach personalizes the message and ties the character’s past into the present.


In the end, all characters come with stories from the past and it’s up to you, the author, to present them to your readers in the most natural way possible.


If you still need some help building a better backstory, our team of Dorrance Writing Coaches can help you develop your narrative writing techniques!


Copyright Dorrance Publishing, 2016