Posts Tagged ‘character history’

Stack of BooksMy recent reading has hammered it in: Backstory–a word my spellchecker hates (though it doesn’t have a problem with “spellchecker”)…I swear; it’s like being edited by a 6th grader with OCD–is absolutely crucial. I’ve known this for a long time, but I’m sort of obsessing about it, now, as I prepare for this new book. I see backstory everywhere in great writing, and it makes all the difference.

You’ve probably heard it: “Your characters aren’t born on Page One.” Meaning, our characters need a history, a reason to be the way they are, where they are, and with whom they are. Lately, I’ve also realized that this rule isn’t just for characters. Places and sometimes even objects need a backstory. The town they live in, that rocking chair in the corner, that leather-bound book there on the shelf, that old pitcher with the crack in it, the dog asleep in the corner…anything can benefit from a backstory. Problem is, I can’t put all that backstory in a book.

New writers often seem to think that, if something is not in the book, it’s not important. This may well be true, but with backstory, this attitude can lead to two major mistakes: putting backstory in the book, and not putting backstory in the book.


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