Is a backstory even necessary?

The backstory… Such an elusive term. What is it? I mean really, when do I use it? I’m not saying this to be cute, by the way, because I have many instances where I’m writing something and the backstory is more interesting than the story itself and I ask myself, was I wrong? Have I been influenced by others to such a degree that I don’t know when my stories begin anymore?

Writing has rules, I try not to learn them, though some are pretty useful, others are more restrictive than helpful.

Some stories doesn’t need a backstory at all! At least not a very comprehensive one while others need more before you can tackle the story itself in a truthful manner; like character motivation and such. It’s all about finding the truth and be honest with yourself when writing.

Sometimes characters do things that makes you confused, you have to find out why he does this rather than have him act unnaturally, because characters sometimes have lives of their own, regardless what you want them to do.

If your backstory is deep, the problem then arise how much you want to show. Generally, you wanna sprinkle it out throughout the story but sometimes you just want to make an entire book about it, like the Silmarillion.

So, again, when does the story start? In my experience, you’re right the first time. The story has a core, the thing that made you want to write the story to begin with. That’s where the interesting part of the story begin so you should probably follow that intuition and go with it. I once wrote a story with three different plots because I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew the main character would end up on a haunted island at some point, but I didn’t have any ideas who he was and how he ended up there. I started the story when he sets foot on the island and the rest should work out from there.

I get Carried away

So, back story is important right? It fleshes out the characters and we get to know them better. I guess back story doesn’t happen on the first draft, but on the second, when you try to make the story more coherent. 

I have a bad habit of making stories out of back stories, meaning they can be read as a whole different story, and is sometimes, unrelated to the first one. I mean, that’s how you discover the back story right? The same way you write your first draft? How else would you do it…

I guess the problem is that the back story sometimes is more, or equally, as interesting as the story itself. Does that mean the first story is flawed in some way? Because, back stories aren’t supposed to be that interesting…

A back story should be sprinkled out and shown throughout the story and perhaps my problem is that I’m over developing it. 

It’s fine if the only thing I know about the main character is that he ran away from home because he came from a dysfunctional family and that his father didn’t want children to begin with. I don’t need to go deeper than that, do I?

I guess I get easily carried away ones I begin.

My Relationship with Backstory

Many of the stories I make have a long-ass backstory. At first I thought it was the main character that needed an indepth backstory, but that’s not true at all. He should have some baggage, sure, but the history shouldn’t necessarily be explored. All characters deserves a past, so we as writers know what we are writing about, so the characters words and actions speaks true. However, some plot important characters need a more indepth look.

For instance, the MC comes to an island (for one reason or another). There’s a woman there alone. We must know what she’s doing there. This is easy if there’s just one life to explore, thus just one story, but in fantasy, it often spawns generations. She’s a witch, she has been on the island for hundreds of years, and before her, there was another witch, which had also lived there for untold generations. Suddenly I have another book, or at least another short story to explore.

If one should show this backstory is another matter entirely, but how detailed should such stories be? I know I work in waves, like, every iteration becomes more and more complex and I try my hardest not to write anything that hasn’t anything to do with the plot before the plot is finished. It’s after that I start adding descriptions, scenes and dialogue. Needless to say, it becomes pretty meaty even with my best attempts, and then there is no problem making it into a proper story.

The reader shouldn’t have a problem understanding the Main story without the backstory and should only serve to bring life to it. But what if one presented the backstory afterwards, kinda like an annex? It seems to me it would be such a shame to hide the backstory I’ve worked so hard on.

Thank you for reading.

If you would like to read some of my stories you can find my latest one HERE!

I’m Back!

To anyone who cares, sorry for having been away for a while. I’ve been in a mental drought lately and I think I know why.

Whenever I wrote a story it was often without a strategy or a plan and I just dove right into it. In other words, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But after some reflection and research, I found there are two essential things one should consider before beginning your story; (1) You need a clear backstory to develop your character’s motives and; (2) you need to have a clear problem which your protagonist want to solve from the beginning. In essence, if your beginnings don’t make sense your endings won’t either.

So, knowing this, I developed my own approach; (1) when I get the idea I write a very rough draft with as few details as possible and; (2) then I ask myself the why, what and how questions to create substance; (3) Then I edit and rework the story until I’m satisfied.

Having this structure and strategy have been immensely helpful to lean on and I feel that I can start working on my projects again. Hence, I’ll finish a story that has been incomplete for a looong time, the sci-fi story, “Colony Sane”.

Because of my now found focus, however, there won’t be as much poetry posted here as it used to, but I’ll definitely continuing posting some once in a while.

Again, to anyone who cares, thank you for sticking by and I promise to fill this site with quality writing once again.