Back story is the story before the story. It is the accumulation of earlier events and histories of your ancestor’s past that transpired before the current story events. It is the baggage, the affects of these events that your ancestor carries with them into your story. Back story is a wonderful opportunity to bring your ancestor’s history into the story. However, this not just about making sure all your research makes it on the page. Using your ancestor’s back story should serve a greater purpose to your story otherwise don’t include it. Think carefully about what past history should be included. Don’t load up your story with history unless it serves the story. It might be easier to make this decision by identifying whether this information adds something to the story. Consider whether your ancestor’s back story falls into one of the following.
Demonstrates the Stakes
We talked about identifying the stakes that ramp up the tension in your ancestor’s story. Your ancestor is on a journey to a goal and
the outcome of that goal is generally tied to stakes. This possibility of doom helps to build the tension and suspense in your story. Is there an event in your ancestor’s past that increases the stakes and tension? Did an event occur prior to the current story, which makes the stakes higher for ancestor to achieve their goal?
Back story can reflect how an event in your ancestor’s past can be directly tied to their motivations in their current story. Your ancestor had a desire to achieve something in their life and the back story may sure to reveal where this desire stems from in their history. Why did our ancestor do the things they did? Did something in their past, an event that occurred before the current story motivate their actions and choices?
Reveals Inner Fears
Back story can also help us to understand your ancestor’s inner struggles and fears. Did an event in your ancestor’s past provide a fear they carried forward with them? Does that fear that prevent them from achieving their goal? Is that fear driving their actions in the current story?
Your ancestor’s story is shaped around obstacles; it keeps your story moving forward. These obstacles block your ancestor’s path to achieving their wants and desires. Those obstacles may stem from your ancestor’s back story. Does a conflict in your ancestor’s past carry forward in their current story?
Don’t use your family history research to pad your story, choose carefully how your ancestor’s past affects the greater story and adds depth to their transformation and journey.