4 Ways to Handle Backstory. By Andrea Lundgren Every story has exposition–details of the character and world that you, as the author, need to pass on to the reader.
You’ve spent hours fleshing out the world of your story and learning about your characters, and now you have to find some way of getting this information (or at least the essential part) from your head to the readers’. (This is especially true in science fiction and fantasy, where you need to tell how the world of the story differs from our world.) So what’s an author to do? Most writing sources discourage info-dumping, or just giving all the information the reader could possibly use or need. So here are four options, with the benefits and challenges of each.
Backstory through Narrator. Pros: Using a narrator or character to deliver the exposition is quick and uncomplicated, and it certainly gets the job done. Cons: This method is subject to the same criticisms of “show, don’t tell,” and even authors who use it will do so sparingly. Like this: Story Genius on Backstory. Lisa Cron Backstory is something writers often struggle with, largely because of the writing myths out there that make it seem like something that’s best avoided.
Ironic, because by avoiding backstory, writers tend to doom their novels right out of the starting gate. The surprising truth is that backstory is the most seminal layer of any novel. Without it, your protagonist has amnesia, so she can’t read meaning into anything, nor can she desire or fear anything except, of course, generically. She wants unconditional love, she fears rejection.
The damage done by the avoid-backstory-myth goes even deeper. Show me the person who doesn’t have abandonment issues, and I’ll show you the person who hasn’t figured it out yet. In other words, by avoiding backstory you not only lock your reader out of the story, you lock yourself out. With that in mind, let’s dive into three very astute questions about backstory culled from the comments on my last post:
Character Motivation Thesaurus - WRITERS HELPING WRITERS® Courtesy: Pixabay Successful stories require many things, but one of the most important is a clear overall goal for your character.
Readers should know relatively early in the story what that goal is going to be. For authors to convey this adequately, they need to have a clear understanding of what the character wants (outer motivation), and why he/she wants it (inner motivation). This thesaurus can help you brainstorm possible outer motivations that fit your character and make sense for your story. The Subtle Knife: Writing Characters Readers Trust But Shouldn’t - WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™ I don’t know about you, but I love reading books where the author encourages me to draw conclusions that are wrong.
Case in point–untrustworthy characters who I trust anyway. Like all writers, I am ultra aware of character cues and actions as I read, so when I’m led astray and find out someone I believed to be good really isn’t, I want to cheer and tell the author, “Well done!” Tricking readers in this manner is difficult. In real life, all of us are body language experts. At least 93% of communication is nonverbal, meaning we are very adept at ‘reading’ other people by their mannerisms, gestures, habits and voice changes. There are several ways to make the reader believe one thing while another thing is true. One technique is the red herring.
If I then further describe him as slightly bald with a bad taste in fashion (imagine the kind of guy that wears those awful patterned sweater vests) but who has a smile for everyone he meets, it’s a good bet that I’ve disarmed the reader. Related. Personality Traits: Building a Balanced Character - WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™ If writing the Positive Trait & Negative Trait Thesaurus books have taught me anything, it is that compelling characters are neither good nor bad, perfect or fundamentally flawed.
Instead, they are all of these things. Each has a set of good, admirable qualities, even while displaying frustrating or off-putting flaws. They have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, making them both skilled and inept at the same time. How to Build Your Characters in Six Easy Steps. By Nat Leblanc So you’ve got a great idea for a novel or story that you’re DYING to tell.
The premise is profound, the symbolism is subtle, and the big reveal at the end is going to blow your readers’ minds. You throw together an outline and show it to an editor friend. They read over it and turn to you. “Why do I care about these people? “But the story!” Your editor friend throws the draft to the ground. A well thought-out and relatable character can allow a reader to enter bizarre and alien worlds without as much as a blink.
Your plot twist might be brilliant, but compelling characters are what keep readers invested until then. How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act. Who in heaven’s name would want to write a negative character arc?
Well, how about Shakespeare, Dostoevksy, Faulkner, and Flaubert? Just to name a few small-time wordsmiths you may have heard tell of. Everybody likes a happy ending, but, let’s face it, not all stories have happy endings. Negative change arcs won’t give readers the warm fuzzies and spawn date-night movie adaptations. But they do have the ability to create stories of unparalleled power and resonance—if they’re true. Truth resonates whether it’s happy or hard, and some of the hardest truths to swallow are the most important for any of us to understand. [Virtue] leads to [success], and [Vice] leads to [defeat], but [Unrelenting vice] leads to [destruction]. The Three Manifestations of a Negative Character Arc I’ve identified three primary manifestations, all of which can follow variations of their own.
How To Write Diverse Characters: A Simple Test by Sonali Dev. I’m especially pleased to welcome Sonali Dev back to RU since this is where I first met her, before she was published.
She occasionally shared an excerpt of her writing, and I immediately liked her voice. Since then I’ve become a huge fan of her books. Her latest, THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE, just came out a few days ago. Don’t miss it! I am told there’s a push for diversity in romance. Character Development. How to Develop a Character. 3 Ways to Develop a Character for a Story.
How to Develop a Character for a Story (with Character Descriptions) Character Development, templates, traits, character types.