Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 2

Part 2 of four posts on backstory by the amazing Randy Ingermanson. Find out how to get his free newsletter full of great information like this at the bottom of the post.

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 2, by Randy Ingermanson
You have at least six good ways to give your reader backstory, when the time is ripe. Here they are:

* Interior monologue
* Dialogue
* Narrative summary
* Flashback
* A nonlinear timeline
* Research

Interior Monologue
Interior monologue is the sequence of thoughts that pass through a viewpoint character's mind. The reader can hear these, either as word-for-word thoughts or else as the gist of what the character is thinking.

Either way, this is a fine way to give your reader little snippets about your character's backstory.

The key thing here is to treat interior monologue backstory like salt. A little is good -- it makes you thirsty. A lot makes you gag.

If you're going to use interior monologue this way, make the backstory references necessary to the character's line of thinking, and keep them short.

Inexperienced writers often launch a long stretch of backstory in dialogue by having one character begin, "As you know..."

The problem is that nobody in real life ever tells somebody else what they both know. This kind of backstory stops your story cold. The reason is that there's no conflict. They both already know everything.

If you want to tell some of your backstory using dialogue, drive it with conflict. Maybe one of the characters knows and doesn't want to tell, whereas the other character doesn't know and desperately needs to. Or maybe one character is about to do something stupid,
and the other one can only prevent it by giving up some backstory.

There are plenty of ways to play out some backstory through dialogue so that you maintain a high level of conflict.

Remember: no conflict, no story. So your dialogue must have conflict. If you keep the conflict high, you can give your reader unlimited amounts of backstory in dialogue.

A cross-examination of a witness in a courtroom is a classic powerful way to use dialogue to reveal backstory. The dialogue itself is frontstory. The information revealed in the dialogue is mostly backstory. But naturally, it has a huge impact on the frontstory.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced FictionWriting E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Check out the other posts in this series here: Part 1| Part 3| Part 4  


  1. Hi, Debbie:

    I'm getting lots of useful information from these posts. Keep 'em coming! I especially liked Ingermanson's comparison of interior monologue backstory to salt. Lol. Analogies like that one are great because they stick with people!

    I also appreciate that he tells us how inexperienced writers go about drafting backstory. It's just as important knowing what not to do, as knowing what to do.

    Great posts!

  2. Janette, I always learn so much from his newsletter. I can't believe it's free!




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