This is the continued saga of my foray into Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel in 31 Days at-home workshop (blog.janicehardy.com).
Today’s focus is on making sure the backstory is both necessary and entertaining for my readers. I am to focus on eliminating, moving or revising unnecessary backstory, particularly in the first 25% of my novel.
My story is science fiction, which means I have to create a different world for my characters to live in. I have to explain why my protagonist had to come to Earth by describing where she came from and her role in that world, which led to this mission. I thought all of this information was absolutely necessary for the reader to understand her. I was wrong. I ended up cutting out half of my first page. It was painful, a little like ripping off a Band-Aid, but now it reads so much better.
Result: I spent a good deal of time rereading my first chapter, particularly the first page, trying to figure out how I could make my protagonist more real to my readers without so much backstory. I actually went to bed to sleep on it, but sleep eluded me and gradually a new page began to form in my mind. I had to get back up and write it down before it forever faded from my memory.
Some backstory can be necessary, but a little goes a long way. If you have a lot, especially on the first page, try deleting it and reading the page again. Then add back only what is absolutely necessary for the story to make sense. Look for other ways to tell backstory, such as dialogue, or put it in other places later on where the information is more relevant. Reserve your first page for action and presenting a character a reader can identify with. If you don’t grab them right away, the backstory won’t matter.
See you on the next page.