Revising Your Novel and the Problem of the Back Story

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Plot, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

☞ Giving more details of one’s narrative is always a tricky issue. In any narrative, details must be minimal: one must give only as much as is needed for the narrative, and no more. Too many details would bog down the narrative, and make it slow and meandering (at least for those parts of the narrative where the details were given). But too few details may leave the narrative hanging in the air, and the respondent would not be able to fully understand what is going on in the narrative. As Holly Robinson says in this article, the novelist is presenting a world in his or her novel. One of the ways to adequately present this world is to resort to a back-story (or back-stories). But how much of this should be given?

‟Most of us become novelists because we don’t envision moments. We envision worlds.

Novelists must fully inhabit those worlds to write about them. We don’t just need to know what our characters are doing right now. We must understand who these people were before facing the conflicts we throw their way. But that doesn’t mean our readers have to suffer through reams of back story or flashbacks (the events that happened before your novel opens). In fact, the less back story you have, the better your novel will flow.

This doesn’t mean skimping on character development. Even if you’re writing a plot-driven mystery or an engineer’s wet dream of a science fiction book, you want your characters to develop beyond the paper doll stage. You know their eye colors, the way they walk, the slang they use, and their favorite cocktails. If you’re clever, you’ll even give your bad guys a few good qualities and your heroes some flaws to keep things real and 3D.”

Read more…

by Holly Robinson in The Huffington Post 
Author of Sleeping Tigers and
The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir

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Comments
  1. […] My latest entry on the main narrativeblog is on the back-story in revising a novel. This article is an interesting complement to it: on the endemic resort to the back-story in Hindi […]

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