Back Story vs Character History, Part One

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Characters, tips, writing Leave a Comment

by Rachel Hauck

Ding, ding!

Referee: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first ever bout between Back Story and Character History.”
Wahhaaaaa. Cheeerrrs!

Ref: “In this corner, from the New York City, wearing black shorts, weighing in at a hefty five hundred and eighty-two pounds is the champion of all novel prose, Baaaaack Storrrryyyyyy!”

Waahhhh…. crowd cheering.

“And in this corner, from Miami Beach, wearing blue shorts, weighing a sleek one hundred and seventy-eight pounds is the challenger, Chhhaaaarrracter Hhhiiiistorrrryyy.”

Wooooo…. Crowd booing.

Referee: “All right you twos, I want a clean fight. No hitting below the belt, no tripping, spitting, holding or biting. Touch gloves, go to your mutual corners and when the bell rings, come out fighting.”


Character History leaps to the center, bouncing, dancing, he’s full of pip. From his corner, Back Story lumbers to the center of the ring. One cross from the herculean champ, Character History will be out, face down on the canvas.

Character History circles, jabbing at his opponent.

“He sure seems confident, Bill.”

“I’ll say he does, Sam.”

Smirking, Back Story takes a wide stance, raises his gloved fists and waits, his hawk-like gaze tracing the young fighter. He’ll not give up his championship belt without a fight. He know, this young whipper-snapper has no power over him.

Character History bobs and weaves. He taunts. “You’re going down, Back Story. You’re going down.”

“Take your best shot, wise guy.” Back Story strikes, a hard right jab.

Oh! Character History takes the hit on the chin. His head snaps back and he wobbles to stay up. He’s against the ropes. Back Story presses forward.

“This is it folks. Back Story will win in round one with a one-two punch.”

Just as he swings, Character History cuts low and lands a hard shot to Back Story’s ribs. The big man his stumbling, breathing heavily.

His arms slip low but he recovers, watching Character History circle. He strikes again with an uppercut…

“But mercy, Bill, Back Story misses by a mile.”

“And here comes Character History. With a jab, cross, uppercut. Ooo, Back Story is taking a beating. He’s teetering… he’s stumbling… he’s against the ropes. Sam, it’s not looking good for Back Story.”

Character History throws one final blow. A sharp cross. And Back Story falls! The whole arena quakes as he hits the canvas. It’s like watching Goliath being quelled with one of David’s stones.

The ref is on his knee, counting. “One, twos, three, four…. nine, ten. You’re out, Back Story. You’re out.”

It’s over. In Round One.

“Ladieeesssss and gentlemennnn, Chhhhaaarrracter Hissstory is the new prose Cham’peeean of the World.


Fun, uh? Okay, I can hear y’all now, “Rachel, what are you talking about?”

I’m talking about back story verses character history. What’s the difference? Strength, power, speed, agility and ability to sustain the long haul of a novel.

Back story is old fashioned writing. It’s large and cumbersome. Slow. Waddling. And most of the time, unnecessary.

But writers use it and readers endure it because it gives us some glimpse into the heart and soul of a character.

Character History is hot, lean and sleek, fast and quick, in and out, not weighing down the story.

Back story, we all know, slows down the action. We’ve heard the rule: No back story for the first 30-50 pages.

But wait, what if an author needs the reader to know something critical about the character for the opening scenes to make sense?

That, my lovelies, is character history.

Please join me tomorrow as we learn more about character history.

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling author. She is past president of ACFW and now serves on the Executive Board. Rachel is also a writing teach and craft coach, and mentor. She is the book therapist for My Book Therapy.Com.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, May 2013, earned a Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Visit her web site at

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