Backstory: Is it necessary? Should it go at the start of the narrative?

January 23, 2020

A novel’s backstory can slow down the pace of the narrative.  When I read a novel I like to get straight to the heart of the story so it immediately grasps my attention.  Often a backstory is not required.  It is useful as it helps authors understand what motivates the characters they create.  But it may not be needed in the text for readers to understand the plot.  Once a backstory has been written it is often deleted during the editing process but if it is needed to flesh out the characters for the reader then the author must decide at what point it should be inserted to have the best effect.

The backstory in my novel, “Magic Bullets”, kicks in at chapter five when the protagonist hears that the first serious love of his life had died and I decided to show what happened during their relationship rather than simply tell another story.  I began the novel with a terrorist attack.  The episode itself does not occur until three quarters of the way through the book as I wanted to grasp reader’s attention from the start.

I differentiated these out of sequence events from the linear narrative by changing the font to italics.  Judging by the reviews most readers liked this approach.  There were a few who did not care fore the book but I do not think that their opinions had much to do with the structure.  They simply did not like the story.  Still you cannot please every one.

Keith Jahans

Available through http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm


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