I’m reading advanced submissions in preparation for this weekend’s Southern California Writer’s Conference in lovely Newport Beach, and I’m seeing a consistent problem – backstory. The problem is so pervasive and oppressive, it feels like a virus.

I’ve written about Backstory here and here. But there is one point I cannot drive home enough:

You are not writing a story about the backstory of our story. You are writing about what happens BECAUSE of the backstory.

Please. Tattoo this to your forehead and put a note on your ‘puter monitor. Agents and editors will thank you.

7 Responses to Backstory-atosis

  1. Webb says:

    Ahmen sister, backstory and prologues alike. You rarely need them. It’s like meeting a vendor for the first time and seeing their freaking biography tattoed on their forehad. Do I need to know what happened to the vendor in third grade in order to buy that software package off him? No. Nor do I need to know why the MC dislike dark places, or why she is shy, just that he does and she is.

    Too many newbie writers think they need to explain everything. Hell, I’ve been married 21 years and my wife still doesn’t know what happened to me to make me like this.

  2. Bill, you never told your wife about being dropped on your head at birth? Shame on you.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    And if your backstory is THAT much more interesting than your current story…

    …you might be writing the wrong book.

  4. I bleat that like a goat on crack all the time, Ninjie.

  5. Sally Zigmond says:

    How many goats on crack have you seen in your life, Lynne?

    (Great point, by the way. People do it in short stories as well. Drives me crazy. Stunning opening line–then dollop, a big steaming pile of backstory that goe son and on and on…

  6. Quite a few, actually. The beagle has befriended a goat with a substance abuse problem. Plays hell with the carpet…

  7. Webb says:

    Well the spouse knows about the head incident, but she doesn’t know it was from two stories up

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