In MAKE YOUR WORDS WORK, Gary Provost suggests writers show that the main character has lived a life before the present time. We have to avoid blocks of information by using backstory sprinkles, but how do we show that our characters go to movies, admire a high school teacher, or have friends in Antarctica? Those details aren’t pertinent to the plot, however, they give us a glimpse of a real person instead of an actor we move through internal and external struggles.
I checked to see if I had included a little of Hada’s life as he advises. In one scene, Hada pays for a gift at a jewelry store, which is important to the plot. When she opens her coin purse, she remembers her son had given her that treasure several years ago when she was ill. That short remembrance gives the reader another clue about Hada’s past. It’s a tender moment that’s not important to the plot, but it offers a little more about her life before the present intense tension.
Outside of the jewelry store, she meets her old friend, Geborah, and they have lunch at Macy’s Cafe. With her internalization, the reader finds out that she’s envious of Geborah for having a facelift. She’d like one too, but knows her husband wouldn’t think it necessary. Not an important detail to the plot, but the reader learns more about two friends in their seventies who wish to stay youthful.
Another detail about Hada’s past is that she loves to go to movies, although she doesn’t go to one in the novel, nor does she talk about specific ones she’s seen. Nevertheless, in a couple of chapters, she flashes on someone looking like Clark Gable or Jimmy Stewart and she likes to pretend she walks as if she’s in a movie. Brief, one to two sentences filtered into a scene, not as backstory, but as quick glimpses into her life before the present journey.