What is Backstory and Why Is it important?


The best stories have a sense that the characters existed before the story and will exist after it. Everything that happened before the action that the audience sees, is known as “backstory”.

Why is Backstory Important?

Stage or screen writers should take time to work on the background story of each character and to think through the events which precede the opening of the drama which they are writing. Although this material does not seem to be directly relevant to the plot, it will have an effect on the plot and developing it thoroughly will inform and improve the drama.

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Why is Backstory Important? Image by 60secondmusicmarketing.com

There are several reasons for this:

  • it makes the process of writing easier
  • it decreases the chance of inconsistencies
  • it makes the characters more believable
  • it makes a story more powerful

A Backstory Makes the Process of Writing Easier

Although some writers believe in “starting at page one” and finding out where the story takes them, spending time developing the backstory is a better idea. It makes starting at page one easier. Backstory is like the well that a writer draws upon for material. By developing the backstory, the writers ensure that the well never runs dry.

What is Backstory
A Backstory Makes the Process of Writing Easier. Image by jerryjenkins.com

A Backstory Decreases the Chance of Inconsistencies

Developing the backstory gives writers a stable history for the characters and story to refer back to. This means there is less risk of making basic continuity errors, especially with reference to characters and their characteristics relationships or history.

A Backstory Makes the Characters More Believable

eraser changing the word unbelievable for believable
The audience is more likely to connect, engage with, and be moved by fully rounded characters who have a believable history. Image by 123rf.com

The audience is more likely to connect, engage with, and be moved by fully rounded characters who have a believable history. Just as in real life, finding out about people’s pasts, tells us more about who they are; so the audience likes to find out more about the characters whose story they are watching. As a result, the characters will become more important and memorable to the audience.

A Backstory Makes a Story More Powerful

When the audience is engaged with, and believes in the characters, then they will be more likely to be affected by the drama which unfolds, therefore a strong and believable backstory will help to heighten the drama. The story will be more likely to move the audience, whether to tears or to laughter.

What Does Backstory Include?

A Simple Guide For Writing A GREAT Character Backstory. Image by nerdsonearth.com

Backstory is basically the background story or history of the characters and story. When starting to develop a story, every writer has ideas about the characters who will populate the drama. Writers should take time to:

  • think about the history of each character
  • get to know the characters thoroughly
  • think about the characters relationships
  • think about the events directly leading up to the opening of the story they want to tell


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