by Sara Mills from Double Crit editing service

I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that.

Have you ever met someone who’s a chronic over-sharer? There are lots of people like that. People who feel the need to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about their life story.

Writers can do that too. They can bog the reader down in a character’s backstory explaining everything, from why they hate cheese to telling about the day they got their first bee sting. And it’s boring. All of it.

On the other hand, have you ever met one of those people who doesn’t burble out their life story in one sitting, but the few details that they do share are captivating. Like when they tell you about that time they were on a nuclear submarine in the Bering Sea… That makes me want to know more, how about you?
As a writer, you need to do the same thing.

It’s your job to make people long to hear the story you have to tell. You can’t do that when you toss in important facts about your character amid an info dump that includes that the heroine had chicken pox when they were five, they took too many courses the first year of university, they hate answering machines, sing in perfect pitch and once partied with the Rolling Stones.

After the first two things, a reader just stops caring. Your characters can have an amazing and varied backstory, but share from that history only when it’s going to really add to your characters mystique and motivation.

Stay tuned for SPY-BARBIE, part three of my series on THE SELF-SABOTAGING WRITER.

Double Crit is a unique freelance editing service that offers high-level critiques of fiction book proposals and manuscripts from two experienced editors. Whether you’re preparing for a conference or getting ready to submit your manuscript to editors or agents, we can help.


  1. This reminds me of the ridiculous manuscript the writer can't stop working on in the movie "The Wonder Boys." At one point a character tells the writer, "Writing is about choices. You don't seem to be making any choices. I mean, did we really need to know the horses dental history?"

    Great movie.

  2. Cool site with great writing tips!


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