Backstory and Subtext

One element of narrative time is the backstory. You may want to think of the backstory as the story that happened before the story. These events linger in the story and influence the plot. Characters may refer to the events that comprise the backstory, or the backstory may emerge as the story's subtext. Subtext refers to the emotional underpinnings of the story. Often, what characters do not say or do reveals as much about the story as their dialogue and actions. In many ways, the backstory and subtext provide the catalyst for the story's conflict, an understanding of the characters' motivations.

Writing Practice

Write a one-page sketch that details the backstory of one of your characters. If you already have a conflict or plot in mind, think about what happened to your character or characters that created that conflict. Consider educational background, childhood experiences, profession, and relationships.

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