Q&A: Can Dialogue be Backstory Dumping?

It’s been a while, but I was finally cleaning out my Inbox and got a question from Jim. He wrote book one in a series aimed at 6-9 year olds, but he had a question about the second book in the series:

At this point, I used Book 2 to allow the child’s siblings to ask and receive answers about what he’s been doing the past 8 months. This was done via dialogue.

Would this be considered Backstory dumping when it’s a second book and responds to a different “now”. If it’s not considered “dumping”, would it still be preferable to eliminate the 6-8 chapters in book 2 and go with the “dribble” the backstory approach?

Camy here: Honestly, it’s entirely up to you. I’ve seen children’s books that have massive backstory dumps, and others where the backstory is more gradually inserted as the story goes along.

I’ve also seen books where the backstory is only briefly outlined. (For example: “Harry explained about how he got somehow entered into the Goblet of Fire and had to compete in dangerous tasks for the competition, but it all turned out to be a trick to forcibly transport him to Voldemort’s reincarnation spell.”) Then the details are gradually inserted later in the story as needed.

I think it also depends on how the story pacing is going. If the backstory dialogue is extensive (and it sounds like it’s about 2-3 chapters long in your book) then it might halt the action and ruin the story pacing. On the other hand, the backstory might be absolutely necessary before continuing the story and it doesn’t upset the pacing at all.

I think you should go with your gut instinct. What do you think would make for better story flow?

Another option is to ask for a few beta readers to give you feedback on the pacing with and without those backstory chapters. If they all say the same thing, then you should probably listen to their advice.