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How to Write a Backstory Using One Surprising Story Element


A backstory is narrating the history of the character or setting that happened before the story rolls into the main events. Hence writing a backstory is a great way to add depth and complexity to the characters and their world. While writing a backstory, one should not forget to determine what kind of backstory one want to write, as there are different types of backstories one can write, viz. character’s personal history, a setting’s creation story, or a society’s cultural development. It is the writer who must decide which type of backstory he want to focus on. The writer should also include in his backstory the important information that relates to his story, viz. the upbringing of the character, their family history, their education, and any significant events that shaped them. In this context, the writer may also consider including details about the setting, such as its history, geography, and culture. Creating a timeline helps the writer to organize his thoughts and ensure that his backstory makes sense. Ideally, the writer should start with the character or setting’s birth or creation and then map out major events that occurred over time- which can include things like wars, cultural shifts, or natural disasters. The focus of writers should be on character motivations and his backstory should explain why his character behave the way they do in the present story. Consider how their past experiences have influenced their personality, beliefs, and actions. It is a wise idea for the writer to show how the characters or settings have been shaped up by facts and events through usage of descriptive language and sensory details – as that shall help the reader visualize the events and feel the emotions associated with them. It is important not to overload the reader with information in backstory.  Only most important details that directly relate to the story should be included, hence it is always better to reveal information gradually over time rather than all at once. Like any piece of writing, a backstory should be edited and revised for clarity and coherence and for that, the writer must make sure he includes events that would make sense in relation to one another and that your writing flows smoothly.

For any form of storytelling, character development in a backstory is crucial to create dynamic and well-rounded and dynamic characters. Backstories inform the reader on the events, experiences, and circumstances that have shaped a character’s past and influenced their personality, beliefs, and motivations. For developing the backstory of a character, the writer may start asking himself some key questions about the characters past the type of childhood the character has spent- whether in a supporting and loving environment or have lived with trauma, the milestones in life that influenced their personalities, character’s relationships, and their impact on him, how the strengths and weaknesses were built and the defining points of his life. The writer uses his imaginative power to the fullest for building up the specific details like family, friends and other relationships and scenarios to bring life to the character.

Narrative structure

Backstory is an essential component of storytelling – hence the structure of a backstory should be designed to ensure it cater to the needs of the story and the audience. By using narrative structures in the most suitable way, writers can provide essential context and depth to their stories by providing the audience with the history and context necessary to understand the events and characters, while keeping the audience engaged and invested in the narrative. The way in which backstory is presented can greatly impact the overall structure of a story. Flashbacks are a popular method of presenting backstory where the narrative temporarily jumps back to show past events. These flashbacks are used to reveal information about a character’s past or to provide context for current events. The key of successfully using flashbacks is to ensure that they are relevant to the story and not just used as a crutch to provide exposition. Prologues is an introductory section preceding the main narrative of a story which is used to provide backstory, introduce characters, or set the scene for the story. A prologue is extremely useful in stories providing essential context to the reader where the story is in a complex settings. Interludes are short sections of a narrative that interrupt the main story to provide additional information or backstory. Interludes change of pace and tone of the story and at the same time add depth and complexity to the story. However, while using interludes, restrictive usage is to be kept in mind. Dialogues can be a powerful tool for providing backstory when the characters discuss past events or reveal details about their own histories and audience get a chance to learn about the backstory in a natural and engaging way. However using dialogue as a component is difficult proposition as the backstory may fall flat if the dialogues used are not well written and contextual.

Personal experiences

In fiction, backstory refers to the events, experiences, and circumstances that have shaped a character’s life prior to the start of the story. It includes information about their family, upbringing, education, relationships, and any significant events that have impacted them. Backstory helps the reader in understanding a character’s goals, motivation and personality and provide context for the character’s actions and decisions throughout the story. A character’s backstory is revealed through dialogue or narration within the story itself. However, in some cases, the backstory are not explicitly stated and instead implied through the character’s actions or reactions. It is important to consider how the backstory for a character shall impact the story and accordingly create the flow. It has to be relevant to the character’s present situation and help to drive the plot forward in some way. A well-crafted backstory adds depth and complexity to a character making more interesting and relatable to readers.

Writing process 

The backstory writing process varies depending on specific context and purpose of the story. Before starting to write the backstory, it is important to know why the writer need it- is it to provide context for the current story, or to reveal a character’s motivations, or to explain the history of a particular setting or event. Knowing the purpose of the backstory always help the writers in focusing on writing and thereby avoiding getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Once the writer knows the purpose of the backstory, he shall brainstorm ideas and research relevant information which shall involve creating a timeline of events, researching historical or cultural contexts, or developing character profiles. Depending on the purpose of the backstory, the writer shall now choose to present it in a variety of formats, such as a prologue, flashbacks, or a separate document and decide on the structure that will best serve your purposes and plan accordingly. When the ideas and research in hand, the writer may begin writing the backstory without worrying about perfection. Once the draft is ready, writer should revise it looking for areas where he can add more detail or cut extraneous information and maintain consistency. Thereafter the writer may contemplate sharing backstory to others and get feedback as this shall help him in identifying areas that need improvement and provide fresh ideas for how to present the information. Based on the feedback he receives, he should make necessary changes and finalize the backstory.

Writing techniques

The key of writing a compelling backstory is to use a variety of techniques engaging the readers and reveal information in a way that feels natural and relevant to the story. Writing a proper backstory is an effective way of creating well-rounded characters in a story as backstory is the history and past experiences of a character that has shaped who they are today. A writer should take through the character’s actions, emotions, and reactions instead of simply telling the reader about a character’s past.  Flashbacks are a useful tool to show a character’s past experiences. However, the writer should be careful not to overuse them, as they can interrupt the flow of the story and instead of giving a character’s entire backstory in one go, integrate it into the plot through conversations, interactions, and events. Dialogues between characters are to be used to reveal backstory. The writer should only include backstory that is relevant to the story keeping in mind that too much backstory can be overwhelming and distracting for the reader. The writer may also use the sensory details to bring the backstory to life. Controlling the pace of the backstory to keep the reader engaged Rather than simply telling the reader about a character’s past is very important as too much information at once can be overwhelming, while too little can leave the reader wanting more.