Begin Just Before The End

Start as close to the end as possible. -Kurt Vonnegut

Too many storytellers are in love with their backstory. They’ll spend precious minutes, even hours, explaining their rationale behind their love of purple, describe their childhood obsession with Transformers and drone on about a high-school sport incident that sort of reveals what they don’t like their boss’s hair.

Begin One WayNobody cares
No matter how much information is revealed nor how much knowledge it may provide to the reader–unless it’s giving necessary insight–it’s pointless. Readers want action. They want things to happen.

This is not to say flashbacks aren’t great literary devices or that someone’s history should be ignored, but rather incorporated into the story you’re trying to tell.

Give it some action
There’s a reason Aaron Sorkin is a popular screenwriter. His dialog moves the story along better than most, and with this he’s able to create a sense of action no matter how significant the event. Achieving this is far easier than most people would think; write out the scene and then edit out every word that doesn’t fit.

Surprise endings are overrated
Twists are fun. (M. Night Shyamalan has made a career out of one really good surprise ending and a whole bunch of bad ones.) But because twists are so hard to do well–and completely useless once figured out–they tend to be avoided by most writers and storytellers. There are far more movies, books, articles and stories that reveal an ending before they start but still manage to keep reader attention.

Their secret? They’re interesting. Period.

Write the prologue, then write the story
Too many amateur writers believe that every word they type is sacred. These people aim for 300 words, write 305, edit for spelling and grammar and call it a day. This is okay, but it’s not going to make them better.

Han Shot FirstIf the backstory is THAT important to the tale you’re about to write and share with the world, then write it as a prologue. Take that prologue and shove it in a drawer.

Then write the interesting parts.

Months or years from now, when you’re rich and famous, release that prologue. Tell the WHOLE story and hope it doesn’t ruin your more popular work.

But whatever you do, don’t use the release of the backstory as an excuse to change what you’re already written and released. Your fans will hate it and you’ll have to live with yourself.