Writing Backstory

According to many that teach the craft of writing fiction, the backstory consists of events, sometimes traumatic, that have happened to your character(s) before the opening of the story. In novel construction, back story often holds the key to character motivation. It isn’t necessary that the reader know it, but it’s essential that the author does, and limits questions for backstory to emotionally important or memorable highlights.

  • What significant something happened in the first seven years of your character’s life that most influenced his/her future?
  • Did physical appearance influence his/her vulnerability?
  • Did mother/father get along? If there was friction, what was the cause and how did it influence your character’s later years?
  • What one incident in school is he/she unable to forget? Favorite teacher? Why?
  • Who did he/she think of as an enemy? Why? How did it affect them? Influence them?
  • What was your character’s most embarrassing moment? How did it affect them? Influence them?
  • Was he/she ever betrayed by a friend? How did it affect them? Influence them?
  • What occupation was the first to intrigue your character?
  • Does he/she ever recollect first love experience? How did it affect them? Influence them?

Interesting characters are what intrigue and hold the reader’s attention. Writers acheive this by creating character charts, or character sketches. This is a technique for character development which has information that is both demographic (age, sex, income) and psychographic (tastes, habits, etc.), as well as a brief list of observed character traits—hairdo, eyes, jewelry, clothing—that stimulates a writer’s creative guesswork about what motivates characters.

What Are Round and Flat Characters?

Round Characters:

Major characters and major supporting characters in fiction are called round characters, as they are well-rounded people in the context of the story. They are complex, emotional, and have many layers of different feelings. And each has strengths, weaknesses, and qualities that distinguish them from the rest of the characters. The lead character (and sometimes one or two other major characters) is given opportunity to grow—to improve upon himself and flourish by the end of the story.

Well-rounded characters include the villain, or antagonist. The antagonist is equal in importance to the protagonist, and is a confrontational character motivated to cheat and harm the main character. Complex and emotional people, despite their dishonesty, questionable morals, and cowardice—three ingredients to every villain’s downfall—well-rounded antagonists seem to leap from the pages.

An antagonist does not have to be a person. It can be an element instead. But it still has to have a personality. I write stories about a ridge and its supernatural power over the populace. That kind of antagonist is an internal obstacle not an external one, like the Barrens and the shape-shifting creature in Stephen King’s It. These types of antagonists must have a heart that can be destroyed in order for the protagonist to become a hero.

Flat Characters:

Unlike well-rounded characters, flat characters are minor characters that authors use as props in a story. Think of waiters, cab drivers, pizza delivery persons, etc. They are not well developed, have no depth or scope, and they never grow and evolve during the story. Instead, they stay set in their ways. Their roles in a story are short and specific: to advance the plot, or provide a necessary setting. They may even contribute in conversation, usually to pass along important information. That’s all.

Art [painting]

I have been trying out some new watercolor paints to use with photography. Photo manipulation has a long history, but not one I want to delve into right now. Perhaps in the near future.

There are many ways to manipulate a photo, including digital photo programs. I sometimes use Photo Deluxe, an ancestor of Photoshop.

I think this is one of my better experiments.

This is a lake not far from where I grew up. I love the bands of pink in the clouds.