How to Seamlessly Weave in Backstory
When my book Surrender Love came out in 2009, I was already working on its sequel. Little did I know that life would conspire against me in radical ways. Four years later, I finally released Forbid My Heart: A Luc and Rah Story. I’m working on two more, and will likely go beyond that in the series. One of the problems with releasing a series is that readers either forget what happened in the previous books, or they never read them in the first place. It’s up to you to remind them or clue them in without dumping huge amounts of backstory.
How do you tell readers what happened in the past without what is known among writers as an “info dump”? One way is to sneak in details throughout the story.
In the sequel to Surrender Love, I was facing an additional drawback. This was more than a short story, but just shy of a novella. I didn’t have much wiggle room. I also had an alien to describe. Tall order. I handled the intro to Izzorah by writing the opening portion from Luc’s point of view.
He wakes, and finds Izzorah beside him in bed, staring at him. That could be unnerving, but Luc found it amusing. Here’s a snippet.
Luc Saint-Cyr woke to the feel of warm lips against his. His Kin lover stretched out alongside him, one arm across Luc’s chest. In the dim light, Izzorah Ceeow’s green eyes shimmered like a true cat’s, the slitted pupils wide. Luc had his full, masculine attention, and it showed in Rah’s forward-facing, pointed ears. Izzorah might have been an eager cat awaiting a favorite toy to power up. The playful image made Luc smile.
There are several writer’s tricks in play here. This is the opening paragraph of the book, so it uses the characters’ full names as a way to show who they are. It gives the setting: Luc wakes to the feel of warm lips and his lover stretched out beside him. We assume they’re in bed, which they are. We know Luc’s lover is a Kin, but we aren’t sure yet what that means. We find out in the next few sentences. Izzorah’s eyes shimmer like a true cat’s, and have slitted pupils. That gives us a bit more of a description, then we discover he’s called Rah, and he has pointed ears. Luc sees him as a cat who is awaiting a toy to power up, and thinks the image is a playful one. He relaxes. There is a great deal of detail in the 74 words included here.
I could have written it this way:
Luc Saint-Cyr woke up in his own bed, and found his alien lover beside him. Izzorah had the same kind of glow to his eyes that a cat did, and his slitted pupils were wide. He was paying attention to Luc as if he thought Luc was his private toy and could hardly wait to play. Luc smiled. Read the rest of this entry »