A well-developed character has a backstory, the events that happened in his life before the current story. These past events helped shape the character into who he is today and influence his motivations and why he makes the decisions he does.
Sometimes pieces of that backstory are important enough to pass along to the reader. Sometimes those backstories can be mentioned in dialogue. The Twilight series makes a lot of use of dialogue for telling backstory. In the meadow scene inTwilight, Edward explains his actions from earlier in the story as well as some of his family’s history. When Bella goes to the Cullen house the first time, he tells her about Carlisle’s transformation and early years as a vampire. There are three long backstories told in dialogue in Eclipse: Jasper’s story, Rosalie’s story, and Quiluete legends.
For a few sentences of backstory that are the from the point-of-view character, you can use inner monologue and narrative.
But dialogue and narrative don’t always work. Sometimes the backstory isn’t one the character would tell another person. Or maybe the other person was there and doesn’t need to be reminded of what happened. Using dialogue gets monotonous as well. Narrative only works for short backstories and often at the cost of emotional impact. Using dialogue and narrative to tell backstory are both examples of telling.
For longer backstories, flashbacks are the way to go. Flashbacks show the backstory instead of telling the backstory.
Write a short story that includes a flashback. Make sure the flashback is relevant to your story and happens at a logical place. Your story can be fan fiction or an original story.
Submitting Your Story
There are a few options for submitting your story:
- Post it on a website such as fanfiction.net, LiveJournal, your blog, etc. Be sure whatever site you choose does not require users to login in order to read your story.
- Email the link to your story to email@example.com.
- If you don’t want to post your story on a website, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use DOC or PDF format only. If you wish to remain anonymous, please let me know when you send it (and don’t include your name in the file).
- Stories are due by 11:59PM PST on July 14.