So when do you need a back story for a particular character when writing a book? The answer is, anytime it’s appropriate. And that story may never end up in the book you’re writing. Let me explain why.
In one of the chronicles of my last book, my main character goes to a haunted playground where a girl named Suki Rin, supposedly died. It’s a story that becomes more of an urban legend to Lin Wu and her friends. However, what the reader will never know, is that I previously wrote a short story detailing the incident with Suki Rin. The whole tragedy of how it happens is played out in a shorter story called, Dare at Seely Park.
Now fast forward to, The Lin Wu Chronicles: Senior Year. I always wanted to include that story into Lin Wu’s world somehow. But the problem I was having was finding a way to do it that made sense. Suki Rin was a prototype of Lin Wu as far as character goes. And since Lin Wu broke off into a different direction, I couldn’t really find a plausible way to get her and Suki together in a story. It was rather frustrating for awhile and I almost gave up on the idea all together.
But then the thought occurred to me that I didn’t have to retell the whole back story of Suki Rin. I could just give bits and pieces of what happened to her, so the reader would have a slight background on her once she was mentioned in Lin Wu. The end product became a chronicle called, The Screaming Ghost of Suki Rin. So that story is really a blend of two stories, Dare at Seely Park and The Screaming Ghost of Suki Rin.
Sometimes you have to know when a story can stand on its own and when it makes a better back story. However, if I ever publish a book full of short stories, I may include Dare at Seely Park. If that happens then a reader who has also read The Lin Wu Chronicles: Senior Year, may suddenly get a strong case of déjà vu. Kind of like a brain tease.