THE BEST NOVELS—THE STORIES ENSHRINED FOREVER ON OUR BOOKSHELVES—ARE THE ONES THAT FEEL TRULY MAGICAL.
If you’re hoping to create this same effect in your own novel, keep these four methods in mind…
1) Leave Some Mysteries Unanswered
When deciding what secrets and mysteries to leave behind in your story, consider these questions:
- Is this information integral to the plot of my story?
- Will my character arcs be incomplete if I don’t reveal this information?
If you can confidently answer both of these questions with “no,” then you may be looking at a piece of your story you can leave unanswered—or at least vague.
2) Treat Backstory with Care
Backstory can be a huge trap for writers. We dream up these amazing histories for our characters, and we naturally want to share them. However, backstory can often do more harm than good.
Here are some rules of thumb for writing character backstory:
- Only reveal backstory when it serves a purpose, even if it was previously mentioned in passing.
- Spread backstory out throughout your novel, never front-loading it at the beginning or rushing it at the end.
- A character’s backstory must respect the main story—meaning it supplements the story instead of dominating it.
3) Look Forwards; Not Backwards
When telling your story, focus more on what will happen next versus what has already happened.
Encourage your story to look to the future, both to engage your readers and to discourage yourself from getting so caught up in the history of your story that you accidentally reveal too much.
4) Create a Trail of Breadcrumbs
Finally, leave hints throughout your story of something bigger.
This is a great way to create intrigue for your reader, even if you’re only hinting at small aspects of your story’s culture or history (a popular tactic in fantasy and science fiction).
There’s a lot of restraint involved for you as the writer, but if you can trust your reader and open yourself up to their imagination, you can create a novel that captures their hearts and minds. While it’s a bit of extra work, the results are well worth it!