A back-story, background story, or backstory (or in games, the background of a character) is the literary device of a narrative chronologically earlier than, and related to, a narrative of primary interest. Generally, it is the history of characters or other elements that underlie the situation existing at the main narrative's start. Typically, the genres in which a back-story may be revealed include literary works such as novels, stage or radio plays, and also TV dramas and movies.


As a literary device backstory is often employed to lend depth or verisimilitude
Verisimilitude is the quality of realism in something .-Competing ideas:The problem of verisimilitude is the problem of articulating what it takes for one false theory to be closer to the truth than another false theory...

 to the main story. The dramatic revelation of secrets from the backstory, as a useful technique for developing a story, was recognized as far back as Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, in Poetics.

Backstories are usually revealed, partially or in full, chronologically or otherwise, as the main narrative unfolds. However, a story creator may also create portions of a backstory or even an entire backstory that is solely for their own use in writing the main story and is never revealed in the main story.

Backstory may be revealed by various means, including flashback
Flashback (narrative)
Flashback is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story’s primary sequence of events or to fill in crucial backstory...

s, dialogue
Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

, direct narration
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

, summary
A summary, synopsis, or recap is a shorter version of the original. Such a simplification highlights the major points from the much longer subject, such as a text, speech, film, or event...

, recollection
Recall in memory refers to the retrieval of events or information from the past. Along with encoding and storage, it is one of the three core processes of memory. There are three main types of recall: free recall, cued recall and serial recall...

, and exposition
Exposition (literary technique)
At the beginning of a narrative, the exposition is the author's providing of some background information to the audience about the plot, characters' histories, setting, and theme. Exposition is considered one of four rhetorical modes of discourse, along with argumentation, description, and narration...

. It may eventually be published as a story in its own right in a prequel
A prequel is a work that supplements a previously completed one, and has an earlier time setting.The widely recognized term was a 20th-century neologism, and a portmanteau from pre- and sequel...



Recall in memory refers to the retrieval of events or information from the past. Along with encoding and storage, it is one of the three core processes of memory. There are three main types of recall: free recall, cued recall and serial recall...

 is the fiction-writing mode
Fiction-writing modes
A fiction-writing mode is a manner of writing with its own set of conventions regarding how, when, and where it should be used.Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has distinct forms of expression, or modes, each with its own purposes...

 whereby a character calls something to mind, or remembers it. A character's memory plays a vital role for conveying backstory, as it allows a fiction-writer to bring forth information from earlier in the story or from before the beginning of the story. Although recollection is not widely recognized as a distinct fiction-writing mode, the use of recollection is commonly used by authors of fiction. Recollection could be considered a subset of introspection (as a fiction-writing mode), but its role in developing backstory separates it from the other thoughts of a character.

As with other fiction-writing modes, effective presentation of recollection has its own unique issues and challenges.

For example, Orson Scott Card observes that "If it's a memory the character could have called to mind at any point, having her think about it just in time to make a key decision may seem like an implausible coincidence . . . ." Furthermore, "If the memory is going to prompt a present decision, then the memory in turn must have been prompted by a recent event."

Shared universe

In a shared universe
Shared universe
A shared universe is a fictional universe to which more than one writer contributes. Work set in a shared universe share characters and other elements with varying degrees of consistency. Shared universes are contrasted with collaborative writing, in which multiple authors work on a single story....

 more than one author may shape the same backstory. The later creation of a backstory that conflicts with a previously written main story may require the adjustment device known as retroactive continuity.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.