There are many ways to begin a story—action, intrigue, mystery, a clever premise—but back story is often not one them.
Opening chapters are like first dates; a feeling of wonder, anticipation, adventure, impulse, curiosity. Perhaps a bit of flirting, letting your date see only what’s appealing, then, the longer you talk, the more you open up. There’s momentum.
Back story, (information pertaining to the story’s plot, character or worlds past) can take away from that momentum. Too much at the wrong time can be like pushing pause on a movie’s climax or a girl who talks to her date about another boy. A turn off.
However! Back story, at the right time and place, can also be a very useful tool. If we have created characters that are complex and interesting, if we have planted the right questions in the plot that readers are turning pages to find answers, back story can be just as exciting and interesting. Only don’t drop too much too early, or it will stop the story from moving forward.
In Heidi Heilig’s new release The Girl From Everywhere her first few chapters sprinkle the perfect amount of back story. Each drop of information is powerful and punchy. It never rains information, but drives us forward waiting for that next drop. What does this do the reader? We want more. When the information comes, its welcomed and devoured. (*Exciting news, by the way ~ Heidi will be our guest on SP coming soon!)
So what to look for? Beware of too many flashbacks, and explanations or anecdotes of the past- especially in the beginning of your story. Learn like Heidi, to drop the right information, to sprinkle it, to create mystery and intrigue around the story.
Give the essential information to understand what’s going on but drive them forward in your story’s present time. Never keep them in the past for too long. Weave your fingers in between the readers inviting them down the rabbit hole. Drive them to the next date.
Nova Signing off from China!