I am trying to write from multiple points of views with my first fiction book. I need to handle backstory (part of the overall plot) where all those multiple characters were involved in the events of the backstory, however in the same time frame but from different places.

What care should I take when I write such a backstory?

Appreciate your guidance and thank you in advance.

  • Is the backstory in your book, or are you writing it for yourself as part of development? – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Apr 30 '19 at 9:56
  • Thanks for the response. It is within my book. Also edited the question to be more clear. – Murali Krishna Apr 30 '19 at 10:37
  • Hello Murali Krishna, and welcome! We don't really do literature recommendations here. Many answers discussing techniques do point toward works where such techniques are used, but the questions focus on the techniques, not the already-published works. Also, an unbounded "what should I keep in mind?" type of question may end up being closed as "too broad" or "primarily opinion-based". I recommend reviewing our subject scope to learn what's on topic and off topic on Writing SE, and taking the quick site Tour to learn how our format works. – user Apr 30 '19 at 11:58
  • Hello, thank you. Edited my question and removed 'literary recommendation' question. And other part is sounding opiniated question, but that is the place I am currently stuck, I am desperately looking for help. Hope I will be forgiven and receive some guidance. Thank you. – Murali Krishna Apr 30 '19 at 12:21
  • How big is your backstory? Can you fit small flashbacks into your POV chapters, or you need complete chapters just to tell the backstory? – Alexander Apr 30 '19 at 17:32

SIDENOTE: Most writers seem to agree that writing the backstory for yourself is important, and this can be an important first step toward the goal you've expressed here. I encourage you to write those backstory scenes for yourself. You say that your characters are all involved in an event, but separately from each other, and that it is backstory--happened prior to the 'real story.' Go ahead and write those scenes.

OK. First, how can you convey the back story? I suggest 'in pieces' throughout your story. Add a detail here and a detail there.

For the sake of this discussion, let's imagine a story of three public figures, and each one is arguing a different side of the gun debate in the US. Imagine the back story is that all three were students at the same university fifteen years earlier, when a mass shooting happened, but each of them had a different experience of that mass shooting, and let's say we don't want that back story to get in the way of the current 'real story.'

In this case, you have three viewpoints and three experiences of a single event. In order to bring the details from that past event into the present-day narrative, you can use a number of tools:

  1. Perhaps one was wounded by a bullet and walks with a limp. The reason for the limp, with some key dialog or narrative, provides some back story.
  2. Another character was emotionally traumatized. He is still in therapy--the therapy sessions are a great way to expose part of the back story.
  3. Another character has a child in school and is terrified about a school shooter--it comes out why.
  4. A diary is found with details.
  5. A newspaper runs a 'fifteen years ago on this date' story.
  6. Another school shooting happens, flooding memories into one of the characters.
  7. etc.

But. To ANSWER your stated question of "What care should you take?":

  1. Keep in mind that readers may not need very much back story. If your story is told well, readers only need a smidge of backstory.
  2. Keep in mind that using a variety of techniques will help, as above.
  3. Keep in mind that you will have redrafts and beta readers in your future, and that finishing a draft is a hurdle in its own right, so don't get too bothered if all the pieces don't fall into place straight away.
  4. Take care to keep the details and timelines consistent between characters.
  5. Take care not to overuse a single device.
  6. Take care not to info dump.

There will be other things that you can 'take care to include or avoid' but I hope this provides some guidance as you work through it.

  • 1
    Thank you so much. Your answer is so helpful. – Murali Krishna May 1 '19 at 16:47
  • 1
    You took a perfect example. – Murali Krishna May 1 '19 at 16:56

I would take a look at the book "Holes" which handles several different events in the timeline of about 200 years near simultaneously. One of the major themes of the book is that these stories are all interconnected in multiple ways. You have the story of the hero's present situation, the story of how he got into the present situation, the story of why his Great Great Grandfather decided to come to America, and the story of a schoolhouse teacher who used to live in the same location the hero's story is set. The backstory is is told concurrently with the present story and the Grandfather story and later is subbed for a perspective shifted view of the Backstory and the Teacher's story.

  • @MuraliKrishna Good... and this is the one time I will say this: The film is just as good as the book and doesn't miss a thing. – hszmv May 2 '19 at 19:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.