"When do you show backstory and which character do you use to do it most effectively?" - Vicki
First off some of you may be wondering why the heck backstory is so evil. It's deceptive really. Backstory can be fascinating and very important to the story. The problem is THE story that you are telling has to be the primary story. The more active and gripping that story is, the better! So when you get sucked into flashbacks and backstory to set up current situations, you are not actively involved in the story. In addition, you can fall into the trap of "telling" vs. "Showing". It's tough to show backstory.
SO, how do we do it? And who do we do it through? Well, the who really depends on the story and the perspective you're using. Obviously the easy way out is if your MC happens to be new to the world/situation herself and we the readers find out along with her. That's not always the case, however, and if it's used as a device, we can usually tell.
You can't eliminate it all and surprise the reader with secrets about the MC because the reader will feel cheated. But you can't just throw everything out there either.
Glad I could help! LOL - JUST KIDDING! Seriously the best advice I've heard is to drip, drip, drip it in. Slow is best. A well placed comment here and there can do wonders. Go through and decide what info has to be revealed by what point in order for the reader to have what he needs. Then inject it.
Showing? Interaction with the world can show A LOT. For example, THE HUNGER GAMES. Recall how the first page mentions A. They all share the same space. and B. The comical cat? That's brilliance. It shows not only Katniss' character, but how bad the food situation is where she lives. Backstory shown without throwing it in our face.
One thing NOT to do? Please don't insert dialogue where people discuss things they should already know for the sake of the reader. That doesn't work.
Back to who. I'm not sure that matters as much as how. In fact, in the example above, I'd say it's the world itself that shows us best. But again, each story and situation is different, so that's a tough question!
What have I missed? What advice can you add? Share so we can help Vicki and each other!