Here’s the fourth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:
4: Backstory dumps
I suppose this is probably a generic story problem, but it certainly is one that plagues the romance genre. A good story drops you right into the action. It provides the bare essentials of information for you to understand the action and hit the ground running. It does NOT spend the first couple of chapters taking you from birth, trough childhood and adolescence and then to present day where your protagonists have their meet-cute.
This backstory dump will kill whatever momentum the author is trying to build. The best way to introduce necessary backstory (and I stress the word necessary) is through the occasional dialog drop, a casual conversation that mentions something that happened in the past. Let the characters current circumstances draw proper conclusions about the events that led to their current situation.
Don’t start a story with pages upon pages backstory about your characters.
Besides the fact that you’re asking me to be interested in something that is just backstory (not the actual story,) you’re wasting valuable real estate. Those first few pages have to hook your reader, don’t waste it with things that are not your main story. Drop you reader in the middle of a scene and make them hungry to know how they ended up there. Tease them with bits and pieces of backstory, like bread crumbs that lead them to the last pages of the book.
I recently read an excellent book that does a wonderful job of dropping the reader in the middle of the action. I wish I could copy and paste those first couple of pages here for you, but since I can’t, I highly suggest you check this book out if you’re looking for a good example. It’s Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight.
Jennifer Geoghan, author of:
- The Purity of Blood novel series
- If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story
- The Family History Quick Start Guide: Genealogy Made Easy
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