Just a reminder for any of you who may still be interested in participating in last week’s Writing Prompt, please be sure, if you have a short piece, to post it in last Thursday’s comments section. If you have a longer piece, please email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can post it for this coming Saturday’s Special Post.
Now, for today, I’m going to talk about:
Character Back Stories
Character back stories are important for your main characters, and can also be important for a few other characters, depending on the part they play in your story.
What is back story? Back story is what happened to your character before the story you are telling. In other words, if your character is thirty years old, what happened to him in his first thirty years that played an important role in creating who he is or what flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and goals he has.
Heed this word of caution: It is important that you know your character’s complete back story. However, it is not necessary that your readers know your character’s complete back story. You need to know the back story so that you can create a well-developed character, so that you know what drives your character. What does he want?
For example: maybe your character’s father was never satisfied or happy with your character as a child and teenager, treating your character like he never did anything right. This could cause your character to have very little confidence in himself. He may believe he is unworthy of a career promotion, an award, a woman’s affections. He may fear being a father because he doesn’t want to raise a son to feel the way he feels.
These feelings could affect him in a way that makes him a loner, keeping to himself, not having friends, and not allowing himself to take an interest in any woman.
These things can create conflicts between him and other characters, in addition to the inner conflict he struggles with. For example, maybe there’s a woman who is attracted to him, tries to get his attention, and grows frustrated when it seems an impossible feat.
Another word of caution: when you do choose to share some of your character’s back story in your actual story, do it in short doses and in a way that weaves it into the story in a place where it is relevant and adds depth and meaning to the scene. It can be part of his internal thoughts, or part of dialogue he shares with another character, or an action or reaction triggered by a memory.
If you just “tell” what happened to him and “tell” it in a long paragraph or two, it will pull your reader out of the story, and it will be known as an “information dump”.
Any questions or thoughts you’d like to share in regard to character back story, please share in the comments below. If you see someone else’s question or thought, feel free to respond respectfully. And, as always, I will respond to every comment.