The thing I’ve found about back story is everyone has their own and theirs is always worse than yours. About ten or fifteen years ago, I was taking the recycling out of the car when the hydraulic hinge gave way and the hatch fell on me, hitting me across the soft part under my shoulder blade. I think it was the most painful thing that ever happened to me.
However, whenever I tell anyone my back story, they always have to up mine by saying something like, “Yeah, I know how painful that can be because a whole car fell on my back and I was immobile for like six weeks. Even now, when it rains, I can hardly move.”
What? Oh, wrong kind of back story? Sorry.
When I was a kid, my dad worked for the city bus company. One of his benefits was the family got to ride the bus for free. We each got a pass with our picture on it, and it meant that unlike my friends, I could spend every dime at the mall instead of having to save out bus fare to get home. It also meant that my parents very rarely drove us anywhere we could get to on the bus.
While I’m actually sort of grateful for the fact they made me learn to use public transportation, because now I can go to any city in the world and figure out how to get around (except Nashville, which might possibly have the worst public transportation of any major city in the US), it meant I spent a lot of time on the bus.
Because I was very cool in my youth (you could tell by the purple stripes in my hair and the black lipstick), it was completely necessary for me to sit in the back of the bus. Unlike all my friends though who chose to stretch out and sleep, I read stories.
I’m doing it again, right? The topic is not stories from the back of the bus, is it? Dang.
The thing is, and I found this out when writing Restoring Harmony, it’s really, really hard to get back story in without getting notes from your editor that say, “CUT!” and “Info dump!” You have to strike a balance between getting enough back story into the book and not weighing down the pace of the narrative. So how did I do this? Well, let’s see…I cut about a hundred and fifty pages from the original draft. Yeah. Seriously. Pages.
Now that I’ve written two novels, you’re probably thinking, “Ahh…she’s an expert by now.” Right? Ha!
When I wrote my second novel, I was so determined not to have too much back story that after my agent read the first fifty pages he said, “Ummm…I think you started your story too late. Could you maybe add thirty or forty pages to the front of it so it makes sense?”