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 Post subject: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:11 pm 
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I wrote a longer version of this on my blog, and then a shorter version on Twitter. I decided to share the short version here. :D

A character's backstory can impact who he is now. What happens to him, the choices he makes. All of it collects to mold the character the readers will see.

Look at Elrond, from Lord of the Rings. Elrond's childhood was affected by the Silmarils. His life was ripped apart. He knows better than most what bejeweled power does to a person. Now is own daughter is living in the shadows of this new fear. He's seen family go so far as to kill each other over power. He probably knows the pain, & the Ring probably reopens ages-old wounds.

Even if we only go by the movie Elrond, we can't really blame him for pressing Arwen to leave. He can't lose more family. He won't let his daughter feel the pain he probably felt. Aragorn can be tempted like anyone else. What's to keep him from hurting her? Besides, he’s Isildur’s heir. Elrond’s seen the damage that line can do. What if Aragorn is no better than his ancestor?

Backstory can shape how your character feels, thinks, and acts. It's crucial. Maybe they have demons, or pain they want to hide. It can affect how they respond to the events of the plot. It gives them depth even if readers don't learn some of it. We don’t learn (as far as I know) about Elrond's experience with the Silmarils (correct me if I'm wrong). But it still shapes him in LotR.

But because Tolkien gave Elrond the backstory he did, Elrond's actions are realistic, we sense he's been through hard things. He’s seen the bloody wars fought over the Silmarils, and then he watches Isildur succumb to the Ring just as the elves did with the Silmarils. It’s no wonder he wants no part in it. That much power turns friends into enemies. It tempts brothers to shed the blood of his kin.

So remember not to skimp on the backstory. ;) It's okay if readers don't see it all. You knowing it helps you write the character. Add a demon to her past. Give him a painful childhood. What happened to make him act as he does in your novel? How does he handle it? Maybe your character will eventually heal, or learn to let go. Elrond let Arwen stay behind (a choice that would separate them). Elrond gave man a second chance. He let go of his own bitterness and fear so his daughter could live happy and well.

Backstory can be a super rich field of possibilities. Make the most of it.

What sort of "ghosts" does your MC have? What happened to them that turned them into the people readers are introduced to?

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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:58 am 
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Wasn't sure if you wanted answers or if the question was rhetorical...

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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:35 am 
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Domici wrote:
Wasn't sure if you wanted answers or if the question was rhetorical...


Either way. :D Kind of an open discussion and food for thought thing. Whichever people would like. ^_^

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That's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again.
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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:13 pm 
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Backstory really helps develop a character. I was at a writing seminar once and we were supposed to do several exercises involving our main character and I realized I couldn't do it with her but I could do it with the secondary character. It made me realize I'd developed him a lot more and she was still missing elements. (It also made me debate whether I had the right main character or not.)

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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:22 pm 
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Lady Sparks wrote:
Backstory really helps develop a character. I was at a writing seminar once and we were supposed to do several exercises involving our main character and I realized I couldn't do it with her but I could do it with the secondary character. It made me realize I'd developed him a lot more and she was still missing elements. (It also made me debate whether I had the right main character or not.)


Ooh. That's always fun when something helpful pulls threads out of a project. :rofl: Were you able to figure it all out? :D Or did the secondary character get spotlight?

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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:18 pm 
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I'm still developing her but it was immensely helpful in making me realize she needed the development. I realized the secondary character is more like me so it's easier for me to understand him whereas the MC is very different. My hubs is very into psychology so we've had some fun discussions while I figure out what makes my MC tick.

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 Post subject: Re: Backstory Unlocked: The "Why" Behind Your Character
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:13 pm 
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Lady Sparks wrote:
I'm still developing her but it was immensely helpful in making me realize she needed the development. I realized the secondary character is more like me so it's easier for me to understand him whereas the MC is very different. My hubs is very into psychology so we've had some fun discussions while I figure out what makes my MC tick.


Ahh, yeah, I've had that problem too. I can get inside the head of one character better than another's. :rofl: That must be really neat to explore, too. :D I should explore that area too... though who knows what I'd find? o.o

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