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.
This says essentially the same thing, but it’s stilted, it tells rather than shows, it’s passive, and it’s boring. Why settle for that?
Here’s one more paragraph, where Luc realizes that Izzorah is afraid of something. Notice the way it’s revealed:
The droop of Izzorah’s ears, his lowered gaze, and the way he picked at his claws revealed the true story. He’s afraid. But of what? “Rah, I told you the security system in this house is airtight.”
We see Izzorah as an alien here. His ears are drooping, and he’s picking at his claws. We also get an insight into Luc. When he sees that Rah is afraid, he seeks to reassure him. That tells us more about his character than merely writing: Luc told him not to worry.
This paragraph leads us into the story concept — which is Izzorah being afraid to go home, and afraid to even admit his fear to Luc. Rather than explain why, I let Luc worm the details out of Izzorah step by step, showing his patience and concern, and Izzorah’s trust to finally open up and talk.
All of this detail served to move the story forward, and allow the reader to discover the tale on his or her own. Readers don’t need an info dump to figure out what’s happening. If you let them explore your story world and see the characters interacting within a given situation, they are perfectly capable of discovering it for themselves. Not only will they enjoy it more, they will also look forward to the next book in your series.
Thank you for popping in to read today. As a gift from Kayelle, please accept The Tarthian Empire Companion Book, First Edition. This is 23 pages of images and info about Tarth and all the other places in the empire. When you click it, this will either offer you a download, or open in a new window, depending on your settings. To read it, you need Adobe Reader, available free. Here’s the download link: http://is.gd/seeTarthCity
Antonello Brothers 1: At the Mercy of Her Pleasure (a Tarthian Empire Story)
When the mission goes wrong, risking pleasure is the least of her worries, but Captain NarrAy Jorlan can’t get professional thief Senth Antonello out of her mind — or her heart.
Buy at Loose Id
Antonello Brothers 2: For Women Only (a Tarthian Empire Story)
Khyff Antonello’s fragile trust of Mehfawni Ruh could be a response of love and a healing heart — or a ruse for revenge against her people.
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Surrender Love (a Tarthian Empire Story)
Not rebound, payback, loneliness, or great sex, and far beyond love. This is surrender.
Buy at Loose Id
Other books by Kayelle Allen http://kayelleallen.com/Books.html
Where to find Kayelle