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What is Backstory and how do you make it work?

  • Backstory is simply anything that’s happened before you started your story.

The main thing to take into consideration is how to add backstory without interrupting your reader.

  • Remember – Every time you add backstory, you stop your story. When this happens you risk losing your reader, especially if you dump a lot of information at once. You never want to spill a lot of past information at one time.
  • You need to introduce backstory in a seamless way that doesn’t interrupt your reader. (For example. He noticed the ring on her keychain. She’d never said anything about being married.) This introduces that there is something in her past. A bad marriage? Not if she still carries the ring. Maybe her spouse died? This gets it into the story so you can slowly let it unfold.

So, first, figure out what your backstory is going to be. Is the woman going to be untrusting because a former boyfriend betrayed her? Will the man have a past he’s trying to overcome? Whatever it is decide early and weave that through your story. Build your character’s personalities, and mannerisms with bits of backstory. Make it engaging so it pulls your reader in, instead of bogging them down with a lot of information that has nothing to do with the story.

Make backstory feel like a part of the main story.

Keep the backstory short and to the point. Decide what point the backstory has and convey that to the reader.

Motive, personality, and other little details can get your reader where you need them to be. The information you leak through the pages of your book should build on and help the reader understand why your character acts the way they do. 

Make sure your backstory matches the tone of the rest of your story. This will prevent you from pulling the reader away. It’s important when you use backstory that you connect it to the present. It should complement the character’s personality in the main story.

Backstory helps the reader to understand and care about the characters especially if they can relate to the problem. You should weave and overlap other details so the character’s takes on more depth.

Character development makes a story more believable. A three dimensional character is more believable than a one dimensional one. Everyone has things in their past that shaped them into the person they are today. We all have defeats and triumphs, things we like about ourselves and things we don’t. Give your character the same. These things trigger things in us like fear, empathy, anger, or resentment..

Putting your characters in situations that trigger their past struggles or hopes can be effective. Just make sure it matches the choices and actions of the characters.

Ways to use backstory:

  • Flashbacks
  • Character musings
  • dialogue
  • to set up the following scenes
  • Character thought and reflection
  • Prologue
  • To slow things down
  • Reveal the true motivations and reasons for emotion in future scenes
  • Provides meaning for the reader by letting them gain perspective on why the character reacts the way he does.
  • To shape your character


  • Don’t start with backstory unless it’s necessary
  • Use backstory a little bit at a time. Not is large doses.
  • They say don’t have a lot of backstory in the first chapter, but I have to admit, I’ve started one of mine with backstory.
  • Don’t mention anything that’s not relevant to the story. Example: Don’t mention a pet that attacked your main character as a child if it has nothing to with your story. Everything should have something to do with the story.
  • Don’t allow past events to take over your story.
  • Let backstory shape your characters and give them depth. Get the reader to relate to them and what happened to them.
  • Don’t rush backstory. Weave it like a tapestry.

Heaven's Bait


Annie wakes up in a beautiful, but mysterious place with no recollection of how she got there, or why. She soon learns that her captor, Rigas, as she is told to call him, is really her appointed protector, but protected from who, Annie does not remember. How can she have no memory of what has happened? After seeing a cryptic and binding agreement contract with her own signature at the bottom, Annie realizes she must find out how to get back home to her husband and family, who she dearly misses, and why she is in this puzzling and fearful situation she has found herself in.
Every time Annie tries to escape, she finds herself back in her little room that she’s being held captive in. Finally, Annie realizes there is no escaping, her surroundings are a loop that never ends and the town she sees from the window is nonexistent. Heaven’s Bait by Diane Theiler is a perplexing and captivating story of a challenge of the soul. Annie must fight her dragons and decide her fate by her own freewill to make it through. The book has a wonderful, curious and mystic vibe that pulls you in, wanting to know more at every turn of the page. Theiler’s complicated characters are interesting to learn about, as the story moves along, and really gives the reader a sense of empathy and compassion for each one.
Heaven’s Bait held my attention to the very end. I enjoyed the descriptive and detailed writing style of every scene. Author Diane Theiler paints a vivid picture of every setting she places her characters in and has a perceptive way of making her audience feel like they are experiencing the journey right along with her protagonist, Annie. I felt just as bewildered and shaken as she did during the entire book. I couldn’t put this book down and was fully engaged from the very first chapter all the way to the satisfying conclusion. I would highly recommend Heaven’s Bait to anyone looking for a tale of the spirit and soul. Great read.

Ella James
Artisan Book Reviews
Manager-Marketing/Social Media Expert

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