Thursday, September 14, 2006


I just finished reading an old book by Dame Roberts. I've never read her before and when the dh brought a bax of books home for me, I was quite pleased to see that it included several of Nora Roberts books. The story was sweet and the romance electric. But the headhopping made me dizzy. I guess she can break whatever writing rule she pleases?

But this post isn't about headhopping, it's about back story. As you know, I am working on a category romance, one that I am targeting for HQ's Amercian Romance line. The first chapter is pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. One thing I've noticed about Cats is they have more backstory/internals in them than most other books I've read. They probably have to have more internals, especially, because they have such a short amount of time to invest the reader in the characters lives.

But again this post isn't about internals, it's about backstory. I have a couple of questions. My story is about a chef who enters a cooking competition and one of the judges is the man she loved and jilted six years prior. He doesn't know why she jilted him and I am not letting the reader know for several chapters either. But the backstory is very important to this book. There are times when the heroine, thinks about her choice, wonders whether she did the right thing, etc. How much is too much? A huge part of the conflict between the hero and heroine is because of their former relationship. Now, I elude to it often in brief flicks, but I have a scene that is about a page of the heroine remembering how her family reacted to the news that she was not only running off to get married, she was moving to Italy to study cooking. The family crisis this caused is the reason she never showed up. Again, I elude to the actual event that caused her to jilt the man she loved, but I don't come right out and say it. (I am trying to build a little tension here by leaving the reader in the dark. Of course, the reader will know before the hero does and hopefully by that time they will be thinking, tell him, tell him!)

My question is... how much back story is too much? Keeping in mind that this is category romance, how much will slow the story down too much? I Know the rule is like NEVER. But in reality authors use it all the time. Any opinions on backstory?


cin said...

Hi Teri-

Yes, your Chapt 1 does rock!! I can't wait to see 2 and 3 and...

As for back story- that is always tricky. I don't think 1 page in the right spot is bad at all.

Check some of the other books in the line you are targetting to see what is tolerated. But as a reader, I don't mind backstory, just keep it active and interesting, just like the rest of the story.


Carrie said...

Tough call on back story. I try to think about what the back cover copy will say. Nothing bothers me more than an author being coy about something that the back cover copy comes out and says. So if you think that your back cover blurb will say why the relationship went south, then don't spend too much time beating around the bush about it. That make sense? Don't know why it's a pet peeve of mine...

Rachel Vincent said...

I read this post this morning (I have you on my Bloglines feed and never miss one!) but I didn't comment because I have no idea.

I'm sorry, but I don't read category. I've tried several over the years, and...well...they're not my cup of tea. I don't care for books that focus mostly on the romance. I love romantic subplots, but for the main plot, I need a mystery, or an intrigue. Or even a horror.

I love romance movies, though. Weird, huh?

So anyway, I have no idea how much backstory is appropriate for a category romance. None. I know that I cut a lot of backstory out of mine before submitting it, then my editor wanted most of it put back in. But then, that's urban fantasy, and a lot of the backstory doubled as world building.

Wish I could help. And I am interested in the answer. ;-)