L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami December 27, 2013 - 11:03am

I used to have a lot more character back story in my work than I do now, though these days I almost totally do away with it (sort of). What are good ways to write good back story in your short fiction, while keeping your short fiction short?

I was looking back at my old work, from a few years ago. One consistent problem I noticed, was characters monologuing to themselves a bit to much on back story. It's not really that it's bad to have back story, so much as I almost think how much is the character going to remember?

I'm about to go for another rewrite again, as I only rewrote it maybe once before (mostly to cut out things like infodumping on haunted town history), and I'm a bit unsure how I'm going to handle the next one.

I guess the person that mentioned you learn a lot from reading your old work is right.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore December 27, 2013 - 1:30pm

At the risk of sounding obvious: only the amount needed to understand the actions that take place in the current story. That's not to say you can't reflect back a lot, if that's what the story itself is, but keep it plot-relevant. And monologuing gets dull fast. Get your characters interacting together, ratchet up that conflict. Character traits and histories can be reflected by others, and not always explicitly stated, but implied through subtext. Reveal this backstory in a trickle, not a downpour (info dump), from multiple sources. It's possible the backstory might end up being the twist or the climax for the reader, that today's events may not be particularly exciting, but when they find out what came before, it causes them to see them from a new perspective.

To quote The Dude:

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami December 27, 2013 - 3:41pm

Thats extremely helpful, thanks a bunch!:D