When I first began writing MG stories, I loved filling in the juicy details as to what had already happened to my main character. I assumed potential readers needed to know the reasons behind the behavior of my MC in the initial pages. Right?
Not so fast. I soon found out putting it all in the first chapter or two was killing any desire for someone to read on. They needed time with the story before I weaved in any needed history of the character. I came up with a plan to fix the curse of the backstory.
- Highlight any evidence of backstory in the first 15 pages or several chapters. I use red as my highlight color.
- Reduce the view to 25% so you can see how much highlight color is in those first pages. From this view you get a visual proportion of backstory and where it occurs. In the case below – way too much.
- Go back to your normal view percentage. Read through each highlighted sentence and paragraph. Is the sentence or paragraph necessary to move the story forward? If it is, could it be placed later in the story or include just a tidbit of the information here?
I also have someone read both versions of my chapter one – First without the backstory (just the black text) and a second time with the backstory (red and black text). Inevitably they choose the one without the backstory as their favorite.
I still fall back into my old ways but when I do it’s easy to remind myself: