Just a note:

This blog isn't meant to teach you anything, but I hope you'll have some fun reading it; I think I'll have fun writing it. I'll be posting bits of writing, like short stories and articles. Maybe some help for aspiring writers, a few tips and such. Also there will be journal entries and clips of conversation from the various characters in my books. So if you like the characters in my book, Cherished Preserver, stop by to get the inside scoop on their lives. Above all, enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Backstory, an Important Part of Your Character's Life

Our past is what makes us the people we are.  Some of us work hard to forget an unpleasant past.  Some think that our past is so great that we can't help blabbing it to anyone who will listen.  This is also true of the characters that we create.

As writers, we only tell the part of the story that the reader needs to know to understand what is going on in the story or in a particular character's life at the moment that they are reading.  Anything that happened to that character before the story begins is called backstory.

Backstory is so important to crafting a believable character.  Sure, Joe Hero may look great on paper, but why is he so tortured?  Our reader may never really know, but as the writer, you should!  The backstory of our characters should be ever-present in our minds as we craft them in our stories because their past makes them the people that they are, just like you or me.  They become more human.  More vital.  And above all, more believable.  They become friends that your reader will love, or enemies that your readers will love to hate.

Your character, or you as narrator, may add a bit of the backstory into your prose, but you don't have to.  As long as you know it, it will just come out in the living color through the actions and dialogue of your character on the page.  If you do decide to add a bit of backstory, only make it a bit at a time.  There's nothing worse than trudging through the first chapter of a book just to learn of people and places of a past time that have little or nothing to do with what is supposed to be happening right now with the person on the page.  Add this later as a flash-back. ( we'll talk about this in a future blog)

On a final note, don't explain too much.  Give your reader some credit.  They really can tell what is going on without you spelling it out to them like you would explain something to a five year old.  Remember, mystery is disarming.  Use it to your advantage to make your characters interesting.

Happy Writing!

P.S.  You can also use some of the wonderful backstory that you took hours to create to write a short story about your characters.  Readers who love your book always love to read more about a favorite character.  I did this with with one of my characters from Cherished Preserver.  Sarah Scott's Aunt Tilly and her pirate husband, Captain Nathaniel Tempest have their story revealed in my novella, Aunt's Story.  I just felt that their tale needed to be published so I had fun doing it.  You can too.  I also heard it is a great way to boost interest for your novels.  You can publish your short stories about your characters on e-books and sell them for 99 cents or give them away as freebies.  Your readers will just keep wanting more.


  1. Great post here! I think it's good advice to new writers not to overdo the backstory. It's a common flaw when one first starts out, but it's one that should be avoided or it might bore readers.

  2. I tagged you for the Liebster Blog Award!