Every character has a past.
I’ve spent a lot of time on creating the history of my characters — some professionals might say too much time. I’d say my novel started through the eyes of a character.
Building backstory for your characters brings them to life.
— A barf cliché that’s true
The person reading your book wants to be lost in the story you have written. When each character in the story has his or her own history, even if their history doesn’t have a single line in the book, that character’s authenticity will show and the book will be better. If the book is better, the reader will be lost in the world you have created. As a writer, this is the ultimate goal.
The thing about backstory is that I can get lost in it while writing. What I have learned is that too much backstory takes the reader out of the story. That’s death for a novel. Once the reader is out the novelist has failed. I try to remember this and not think too much about it at the same time — Ugh. What I do is pepper in the backstory that is written somewhere else, maybe on a character file that I have created. Peppering, in my humble opinion, is using a line, a word, maybe some dialogue or nonverbal cue to get some of the backstory in. If done correctly the character has more depth and the story does too. No matter the role, every character in my novel has a past.
Let’s be clear, I haven’t published this novel, so I’m relating to you what I have learned from other writers, agents and publishers as well as my own experience. Some novelists write seamless back story into their novels. Maybe someday that will be me. For now, I’m sticking with the plan. Pepper in the back story, keep the gems and all the rest falls into the rhythm of a story I’d like to get lost in.