Using Backstory

Backstory is one of those topics that we hear a lot about.  Too much backstory or an info dump can slow your story – or worse, the reader gets bored and stops reading altogether.   Not enough backstory and the reader isn’t grounded in the world and invested in your characters.  Lots of articles and advice on that.

We generally love our characters – and we want everyone else to love them too.    So the dilemma is what to do with all this great information we have that can’t make it into the novel.  And sometimes there’s a really interesting bit player in our story that has a wonderful backstory.

There are some choices.  We can use a more minor character to write a novel.  We can have some more minor characters become more prominent in other novels in a series.  Or we can use them in other stories – long or short.   We hear about short stories that are later used as a jumping off point for a novel.  But I wondered how many novels create short stories.

My critique group was discussing what to do with all the backstories that we have on some characters and not wanting to do full-fledged novels.  Some of us are working on short stories that not only use the backstory but will also give us some other credits and hopefully, invest readers in these characters so that they’ll want to read our novel(s).  We are all in different stages so we have some that will use the short stories to support a novel already published and others who will use the short stories to support and garner readership for a novel to come.

How about you?  Do you use your backstory or minor characters in other ways?  What has been your experience with this?

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