I took a writing class this summer, and the teacher and students kept saying you shouldn't include big chunks of back story in your text. You know: "Joe was born in 1822 to a mother who didn't want him..." etc. I listened to all the arguments, which were mostly that back story forces the reader out of the narrative and that it's telling and not showing and etc, and decided they were right. But then, I started reading Snow Falling on Cedars, which is a first-rate book that won the PEN/Faulkner award and was made into a movie. The book has several long chunks of back story, including a four page tangent about how one of the characters lost an arm and went to college. I know there aren't really any rules in writing, and that essentially you can do anything if you do it well, but what do you all think? Is it OK to include big chunks of back story in a novel, or not really? I ask because my last piece, I have a four-page back story about a character's childhood. I was just starting to consider getting rid of it when I read this book. Now, I'm working on another piece and I'm wondering if I should include long moments of back story or if that's a terrible travesty.