on Career Authors:
I’m just going to say it…Backstory gets a bad rap. Like Holden Caulfield, one could make the case that Backstory’s troublesome reputation is well-deserved. On the other hand, a strong argument could be made that like Holden, Backstory is simply misunderstood and doesn’t know how to eloquently express itself. I firmly ascribe to the latter.
Before we jump into Four Tips for Writing Backstory, let’s first define what backstory is and what it isn’t. Oddly, backstory can be explained in a single word: prequel. In other words, it’s the story of what happened to a character before he or she is introduced in the narrative for the very first time.
Backstory is prequel—the aggregate and cumulative life experiences the character has before the reader meets him or her for the first time.
Backstory is not narrative. It is not flashback. It is not internal monologue. It is not memory. Many writers do not understand this, which is the reason why so many acquiring editors run away when they see Backstory show up at the party.