on Fiction University:
Uncovering backstory isn’t the same as plot, and focusing too much on the story’s past can hurt your novel’s future.
One of the very first outlines for my urban fantasy novel, Blood Ties, focused on revealing the twist and secrets of the novel. It was mostly about how readers were going to learn all the cool things I’d created and less about a character struggling with a problem. Which was a problem, since struggling with problems is what makes a novel a novel.
Weak as that early outline was, writing it was worth it, since it helped me figure out those backstories and secrets. It also made it obvious that I’d outlined a novel that didn’t truly have a plot. Sure, my protagonist had goals and she acted to achieve them and did all the things a good protagonist is supposed to do, but if I’d written the story to that first outline, it would have been terrible.
The quest to reveal backstory can feel like plot, but it’s not plot.