In an earlier post, I outlined some of my thoughts on using back story in fiction.  Clearly, back story doesn’t always work and may leave readers feeling lumbered with unnecessary information.  However, like I pointed out in the earlier post, when done properly, back story can add extra atmosphere and immediacy to a story in a way that employing dialogue might not.

I think that for back story to work, the content must be relevant at all times and should only address the central story questions.  In other words, it should be kept to a minimum. 

I also think that back story needs structuring like the present story with the same eight stages.  Those are:

  • The starting point (“stasis”)
  • An inciting event (“trigger”)
  • The central character’s search for an answer, an object or a person (“quest”)
  • A succession of obstacles preventing the character from achieving their aim (“surprise”)
  • Decisions the character makes (“critical choice”)
  • The consequences of the choices (“climax”)
  • Consequences of climax (“reversal”)
  • Aftermath/New Stasis (“resolution”)

More on story structure

Perhaps the best way to ascertain whether back story works is to copy and paste to a separate document and see if it feels complete. 

Just some of my thoughts.


I will be sending my first novel to the editor on Monday and shall continue working on the second, which seems to be going well.


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