Our first patient chooses to remain anonymous, but presents with a problem very common to new writers. If your first chapter is filled with things your character knows, which your audience does not, and nothing else, then your novel is probably crippled by this common, yet painful condition. A novel suffering from Upper Back-Story Pain fails to capture the imagination and attention of the reader, which is the true purpose of the first sentence, the first page, and the first chapter.
The causes of Upper Back-Story Pain may vary, but generally a new author feels the need to describe, in detail, how their world differs from our own. This generally presents itself as a dry description of the setting, or the future history between today and the apocalypse. Once the author feels the scene is properly set, they usually begin telling the real story in Chapter 2.
That’s why the most common cure for Upper Back Story Pain is a Chapter One-ectomy. That’s right, delete Chapter 1, and move Chapter 2 where it belongs, Page 1. The details written down in the back story download should be sifted into the story, revealed by the action and reactions of your characters. Don’t give a detail until it is relevant.
One way to identify back-story is to ask your character whether they would say, think, or describe that information to one of their fellow characters. If the answer is no, for any reason, then the information is back-story. Every good novel needs some back-story, but the worst place to put it is in a ten page info dump on page 1. Get your reader interested in what is happening in your novel, and only then will they care enough to read about how that world came about.