Too much backstory can turn an otherwise good story into a long-winded mess. Creating the right balance of story and backstory can be a major issue for writers. Some writers do it naturally and instinctively, others have to learn. Regardless of how you achieve it, that balance is important. Especially in short stories. Time and space are restricted, and lengthy backstories can really crowd readers with information.
The importance of backstories in character creation often leads writers to rely too heavily on them. For those of us who don’t get to the point quickly, learning to balance the opposing forces of story and backstory is as simple as trial and error. The more you write, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn.
Actually, I like to write a lot of character backstories that are like biographies in bullet points. I keep these outlines as notes for myself as I write the actual story.
Let’s face it, not every event in a character’s life is going to be worth putting down in story form. Some parts of their lives should be omitted. So, another thing that can be an issue for writers is choosing exactly what to omit. For me, the process of omission is fun. I find it to be a bit like sculpting–taking a mass of stone and chipping away at the unnecessary material to uncover the hidden work of art beneath.
The importance of backstory is a fun subject for me. So I am creating a blog series called Backstory Biernes that will come out every Friday.
As a matter of fact, the Backstory Biernes series has its own backstory. Read about that and more this Friday, May 8th, 2015–the inaugural post!