Backstory? Of course the reader has to know it. She just doesn't have to know it all--right now.
Just a soupcon here, a sprinkle there, and you'll have a perfectly seasoned plot. My problem has always been a heavy hand with the salt. Yep. Backstory remains a challenge for me.
That's why I was front and center Saturday for author and teacher Leigh Michaels' session "Things that Stump the Best of Us--Backstory--Pacing--Transitions." Leigh was one of the speakers at this year's conference sponsored by Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA).
Some of her recommendations: tell whatever background you can in dialogue. Natual sounding of course, in a voice consistent with the character's. Another way is to weave backstory in small bits rather than in one huge exposition.
At that point, I thought fondly of my first manuscript with its pages of the hero's angst-y introspection revealing his history and the reason his current situation was so crucial. Absolutely essential, I was convinced.
Which brings up the next point.
Leigh said that readers need not, and often don't want to, know every small detail of the character's former life. Unless the information is essential to the story, omit it.
And third: wait until as late as you can to reveal backstory, sometimes as late as the end.
These were only three of the many tips she touched on during the presentation, but they certainly caught my attention.
I still write backstory. Often I pound out a page or more that I'm certain is deathless prose but turns out to be--blah-blah-blah. Now I cut and paste onto a blank document so I can have it handy to add as needed. Like chocolate sauce drizzled around a slice of cheesecake. Again, figuring out when and how much.... (But I love chocolate, don't you?)
If you'd like more from Leigh Michaels, please check out her well-known book ON WRITING ROMANCE. Find her at www.leighmichaels.com.
Do you have particular problems with writing backstory? Have you discovered a technique that you've found helpful?