Nobody Cares About Your Character's Backstory
Regardless of how one might feel about character backstory, there shouldn't be too much argument that a well-written character can thrive, be interesting and well rounded with little to no backstory but backstory cannot thrive without character. Well, that's not entirely true. I could read nothing but character profiles (like a video game instruction manual back when those were a thing) and be fairly entertained. For most, however, the only reason to care about a character's backstory is because we already like the character and want to know more about them.
Yet, time and again, an otherwise well written and engaging story will come grinding to a halt as they fall victim to the dreaded exposition-dump. A chunk of backstory that slows down the pace of the story being told, reminds the reader that they are reading and usually feels like something the reader has to slog through or climb over to continue the story. Usually, this happens because the author really wanted you to know something they felt was vital to your understanding and enjoyment of their character and story or they think it will be interesting. Usually, it is not.
This is not to say your character's backstory isn't important. It is. Your character's backstory should feel connected to every aspect of that character like and equation where the sums of the parts is the character as the reader meets and knows them. The reader should be able to feel like they already know the character so that when they do learn about said character's past, the backstory fits like a mold.
How you go about informing the reader of that backstory is just as, if not more, important than the backstory itself and something I hope to get into as this conversation continues. Take this brief question and answer for example that gives us every bit of backstory we need about Clint Eastwood's character Frank in Escape From Alcatraz.
- Charley Butts: Geez, what kind of childhood did you have?
Frank Morris: Short.