The Author's Craft: To Use or Not to Use Backstory

Explain your Story without using Backstory

What is Backstory?
Backstory is everything that happens before the action in your story begins. It's good because it can be an effective way to add meaning and depth to your characters. It's evil because it can also slow down your story.

Have No Fear!
You do not need to eliminate backstory to keep your story moving. Just know when it's necessary... sometimes there may be another method that would be more effective.
Not Everything Needs ExplainingMake sure your backstory matters. Not everything needs to be explained to readers. There may be many things you know about your character that you don't need to share. Allow readers to use thier imagination when possible. They just don't need to know details that don't impact the present story. 
Mix in Small DetailsUse dialogue to relay information by making it part of the conversation or observations. Place past details throughout the present story. A habit, a misstep or a flash memory can speak volumes about your character without slowing down the story. 
Stay In The PresentTell the backstory as part of the present story. Make an important event occur at the beginning of the story as opposed to in the past. Have on character tell another character about a past event in the present so it becomes part of the story.
Sometimes... Backstory is Best.
All good stories have a backstory. Backstory makes the setting of a story feel real and gives your characters a larger presence. And, honestly, there are just some times is darn simpler to throw down the facts (this is the exception, not the rule!)
Why use Backstory?• Backstory can set the background for the present story.
• Backstory can provide a fuller picture of your character.
• Backstory can build an emotional connection with readers.
• Backstory can increase suspense in some circumstances.
Like many aspects of writing, backstory is a balancing act. Being aware of backstory is the most important step in controlling your use of it. Considering other ways to provide past information first will allow for a balanced story with good flow. Knowing what information needs to be shared will prevent you from littering your story with useless details.

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