One of the things I’ve been doing in my current rewrite is looking at backstory.
Here’s my little off-the-cuff definition of backstory: events that take place before the story that are potentially part of the story because they influence a character’s motivation and actions.
In my revision I’m both eliminating and adding backstory. I’m also moving it around.
Here are a few of the questions I’m asking myself (in no particular order) as I consider cutting or adding or moving backstory details:
Does the backstory detail in question move the story forward in some way?
Does the reader learn something that makes what is happening in the story more meaningful and/or intense?
Does the reader learn something that helps them indentify with a character?
Am I inserting the backstory details at the right times, i.e. just as the reader needs to know them?
Does the amount of backstory I’m including fit with the style and rhythm of the story? And, does the way I’m including it fit?
I don’t want to gut my story to the point where it is just a series of events happening in the present without context, but I don’t want to bog it down with unnecessary details either.
I took a workshop with YA author Jeanette Ingold a few years ago and she recommended using an eye-dropper (as opposed to a shovel) to insert backstory, and that image has stuck with me.
(And, just to bend your mind a little more in regards to backstory, Jeanette left a thought provoking comment below. Thanks, Jeanette!!)
How do you make decisions on where and how to include backstory details?