As a writer, you’ve likely heard many warnings about how to handle backstory in your writing. However, it’s important to also focus on the positive aspects of incorporating backstory effectively. By doing so, you can create a compelling and engaging story that captivates your readers and strengthens your narrative.

So, what is the key to writing an effective backstory? It’s all about the “hook-punch” technique. The goal is to make readers care about events that have occurred before the main story. To achieve this, you start your story with a “hook.” This can be done by introducing something important and intriguing that happened before the current events of the story. This “hook” will make readers eager to know more about the backstory.

Once you’ve hooked your readers, it’s time for the “punch” – the actual backstory. By this point, your readers should be eager to know more, and if you’ve done your job well, they will be fully invested in the backstory. In some cases, you may even be able to incorporate a lengthy flashback, despite warnings about avoiding them, if your hook and punch are strong enough.

For a great example of the hook-punch technique, check out Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” Chabon uses this technique repeatedly throughout the book, but it is most apparent in the beginning. After introducing a Czech refugee in New York City during World War II, Chabon delivers a powerful punch with a lengthy backstory about the character’s experiences as a magic-learning art student in Prague.

While a punch as powerful as this may not always be necessary, by mastering the hook-punch technique, you can handle any backstory that your story requires and make it a favorite part of the book for your readers.