13.19: Backstories

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

Character backstories: these are the tales that describe how the characters in your story became who they are by the time they arrive in the book. How much backstory needs to be written before you start in on the manuscript? How much needs to be in the manuscript itself? And how much backstory is too much?


Write a flashbacks scene that reveals a key bit of a character’s backstory. Then reveal the same bit of backstory in a scene where the character describes the events to someone else.

Racing the Dark. by Alaya Dawn Johnson

4 thoughts on “13.19: Backstories”

  1. As a reader, I hate flashbacks. I might excuse my very favorite author if they put 1 (ONLY 1!) in a book, but otherwise a flashback is an automatic 1 star loss on my reviews. 2 stars lost if the flashback occurs in the first book in a series and before the 25% mark in the book.

    The only other time I have been okay with a flashback is when it’s first-person and the viewpoint character is somehow reading someone else’s memory and experiences this other character’s flashback.

  2. The windy quartet, Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice, finally talked about character backstories with us! How much do you need to start with, and how much do you invent when you need it? When do you slip that backstory in? How do you use flashbacks to make your story move, and not kill it? Lots of good conversation, and recommendations for pickled okra… all in the transcript, now in the archives and available over here…


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