HOW TO KEEP FROM WRITING TOO MUCH BACK-STORY
Too much back-story will kill you. The common feeling whenever we’re writing is that we have to explain our world. We have to describe what things look like, and how things came to be, and what powers our people have.
I ran into this trouble with my fantasy trilogy. When I looked at it again, I noticed that I had a prose-styled dossier. It just wasn’t working. What I realized is that my explanation of the world was getting in the way of the story.
I’ve peeled back so many layers to reveal the meat of the manuscript, and what’s forming is a well-shaped WIP that’s one step away from completion.
Here’s my suggestion. Readers can wait on the rules of your world if you can give them an amazing story to read in the meantime. In fact, your world and your back-story should be accents.
Seven years ago when people were migrating from Jai to Nuki, millions were killed in the journey.
Yuri held her late mother’s headdress against her cheek. The memories of the slaughter still haunted her and sometimes even paralyzed her in her sleep.
Which of these two slams you back onto the couch and orders that you keep reading? Certainly not the first one. Readers need to unite with a character. We all have trouble connecting to an event, without a person’s experience of that event.
Whenever we refer to the Holocaust, we say, “6 million Jews were killed.” Unfortunately, these blanket numbers don’t do it justice. But when you read Night, an entire world of emotions and fears birth themselves out of Elie’s experience.
But what about a prologue? Prologues are virtually obsolete. That said, they do creep up here and there, but few people like reading the prologues that start like this: “There once was a boy.” Yeah…all we hear is, “There once was a boring story.”
Prologues should still create the sense of urgency and compassion for your character, even if the characters within the prologue are not your mains.
Keep in the mind the example from above. If you can take Yuri and make the reader have compassion for her, only then will we care about the circumstances that brought her to her current situation.
I hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by!