Monday, August 19, 2013

Backstory. Get Over It.

Backstory drudge and muck clogging up the beginning. We’ve all done it. Writers, I mean. If you haven’t, congratulations. You’re a Unicorn. And I hate envy you.

I don’t know about you guys, but it took me years to figure it out. Beginnings wouldn’t be so hard if we could just let go of that past life our main character(s) has. And, of course, we write and write and rewrite and rewrite the story so much that every damn detail feels like solid gold.

I’ve been thinking lately about why beginnings don’t scare me as much as they used to, and I think it’s because I got some perspective. Let’s put it in Cute Meet terms, whether it be a potential love interest or new friend. 

You’re at a party, and across the room is someone you’d like to meet. So you take a deep, calming breath, and you stroll on over. They smile at you in an inviting way that lets you know they’re interested in what you have to say.

You can do one of two things. You can:

  • Say, “Hi, my name is Pat,” while thinking You aren’t touching my past with a ten-foot-pole because I don’t know you, but you seem like a nice enough person.
  • Or you can be that weirdo who walks up to a complete stranger and says, “My parents were mangled in a car accident when I was two. Brains all over the pavement. No joke. Then I was raised by my salacious Uncle Rod. Not the best environment. I’m in therapy, but it’s not working out. I now teach pre-school. You?”

In this particular Cute Meet, YOU are Pat and you’re talking to a reader. Which do you think is going to work out to be a long relationship?

YES, that past drives the decisions of your main character, but sometimes, it’s best to leave that mess for later scenes when it becomes a conflict with other characters. It’s why the reader keeps reading—they want to find out what’s going on and why. Leave a little mystery. Trust me.

And if you end up with a ton of info that didn’t make it into the story—Oh the-eff well. Listen, if it doesn’t strengthen the plot, don’t use it. Ignore that temptation as if it’s a new strain of smallpox.


  1. Fantastic post! It's too easy to forget that writing a novel is starting (or continuing) a relationship with the reader. As you say, just like in real life, too much information too soon is creepy and a turn off. A little mystery goes a long way!


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