Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Develop Your Story by Beginning with Character Backstory

As a character-driven novelist, I find it thrilling to discover my characters before I write their stories. I can get to know their hearts and their histories before I allow them to walk onto the page. Doing this not only enables me to present well-rounded characters to my readers, but it also helps me to develop the entire course of the story as well.

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Think about it: In real life, our past determines our present. The choices we made yesterday have brought us to where we are today. So how can we, as authors, expect to authentically slip into the shoes of our characters if we aren't first aware of why they are the way they are today? How can we expect to write in deep POV if we don't first allow ourselves to delve into our character's history? 

This is why, when I approach a new book, I like to first begin with backstory. Not only does this allow me to present flesh-and-blood characters to my readers, but it also helps me steer the entire course of our story.

In my first episode of The Firsts in Fiction Podcasts (an absolute favorite writing-craft podcast of mine, which I have recently joined as co-host--yay!), we've shared tips on how you, too, can develop your story by first beginning with backstory. Check out the video below

Main points:

  • When we discover the history, then we can craft well-rounded, authentic characters.
  • Our character's past influences his/her worldview, attitude, religion, personality, etc. Characters are who they are because of the decisions they made yesterday--just like all humans. 
  • It's important for writers to understand the backstory between character relationships as well--relationships with humans, as well as with the story's setting(s). 
  • When we understand their yesterdays, then we can understand the "whys" of their today. This can then shape a character's internal struggles, goals, inner needs, and flaws, which can influence the external journey of the plot. Our characters' pasts might come into play as they walk through the course of the story.

What are your favorite ways to discover your characters' backstories? Do you brainstorm backstory first, or do you discover it as you write? Let me know in the comments! (And don't forget to give the video a thumbs up if you liked it!)



  1. Backstory definitely helps with character development. Most of the time, I know the backstory first, but every once in a while, something sneaks up on me as I'm writing. I love it when that happens because it's always unexpected and it always adds an extra layer to the character.

    1. Yes! That happens to me occasionally as well. I don't think it matters so much how the backstory is discovered, only that it is uncovered and we can draw from it throughout the story. =) Thanks for contributing to the discussion!


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