3 Additional Uses for Research and Backstory

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

It doesn’t matter if you are a fiction or nonfiction writer. When you have finished your manuscript, you almost always have a file of materials that didn’t make it into the manuscript. 

For fiction writers, a lot of this material is backstory. It may be the childhood incident that spurs your point-of-view character into action. Or the one that holds her back. Maybe it is a list of her favorite music, movies, or foods. 

For nonfiction writers, it could be background material on the historic era in question. This material might include newspaper headlines, catalogue pages, or play bills. Interviews with experts always yield way more information than you can use. Then there’s the brilliant sidebar which, while fascinating, no longer fits the chapter. 

What do you do with all of this? Build a section full of reader extras on your web site. This could include: 

Text Extras 

A chapter or series of sidebars you had to cut from your nonfiction could become an article or other nonfiction short. Backstory rewritten to have a compelling beginning, middle and end could become a downloadable short story. Different authors provide different print extras to entice readers. Kris Bock, author of the Cat Café books, offers her fans recipes for various baked goodies sold in her fictional café. You could also offer a knitting pattern or other craft-based how to. The possibilities are limited only by your topic and your imagination. 

Graphic Bonuses 

Stories and other text based freebies aren’t the only pieces your readers can download. If you own the copyright or have copyright free art, photographs and maps, you can use them to create everything from bookmarks and postcards to trading cards and matching games for your readers to download and print. For a historic piece, you might create themed paper dolls or sewing cards. Line art can also be used to create mazes or coloring pages. 

Online Offerings 

As long as you are bringing readers to your web site, why not give them something that benefits from being online? That play list you made for your character? Publish it on your site with links to the various songs. Create an online scavenger hunt based on visuals from your story. Engage preschool readers with music based activities or a “Simon Says” video. Yet again, the possibilities are endless. 

Next time something won’t fit into the main manuscript, don’t sweat it. You may yet be able to create a home for it online.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 7, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 7, 2020). 


Jeanine DeHoney said...

These are great ideas Sue on using bonus materials. I especially like sharing a character's music playlist with readers

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you! I sometimes consult friends when I need music for a story. That way it isn't all MY music.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I'm with Jeanine. I love the idea of a character's playlist.

Don't forget the potential for classroom use. Perhaps include discussion questions or project ideas for a teacher to use?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Pluses for classroom use should be a given. Thank you for the reminder!

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