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Do you create a backstory for your characters?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

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    I've found myself creating a small biography of the cast of characters in my story.

    Does anyone else do this?

    What do you think are the Pros and Cons of doing this?
     
  2. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

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    I do this as well. On the plus side, it means each of your characters have more depth which can be revealed as the story progresses and explains why some characters act in a certain way. I liked the way Game of Thrones revealed a lot about the previous war through Eddard Stark's memories. Much better than just info dumping past events early in a novel.

    On the other hand a good past story should co-exist with good character development. The way a character behaves should be as a result of past and present.
     
  3. Mockingjay Ignis

    Mockingjay Ignis Dreamer

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    Yes, i do this with most of my characters. I hate it when Characters don't have any type of backstory whatsoever.
     
  4. TheTdroid

    TheTdroid Dreamer

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    Yes, I do create a backstory for my character cast. It both helps me define their experience, talents and weaknesses, their motivation, and why they are where they are at this time.
     
  5. Jaredonian

    Jaredonian Dreamer

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    I usually have more in depth histories for my characters depending on how important they are to my story. However for the most part I like to discovery write my characters, because I'm often coming up with interesting ideas for their past as I write. I don't really see many cons coming out of this, as long as you don't let you back story become too set in stone. You'll probably want to leave yourself some room to add and change events in there past to gel with the story as you write it.
     
  6. Depends. I mean, I always have an idea of what kind of background each character has, but it's not like I bother writing their entire lives down unless their past is somehow important to the story.
     
  7. Nihilium 7th

    Nihilium 7th Sage

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    I think writing at least a basic bio on characters of "importance" makes it easier to write the story because it helps develop their personality and the choices they might make. On the flip side it might restrict you when writing your story or might force you to be more creative.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I also approach it with a general idea of the backgrounds of the characters, but without writing out bios.
     
  9. Cinninamon

    Cinninamon Dreamer

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    For main characters, all the time. Sometimes I find that writing the backstory for a character can be just as fun as writing the main story itself. Also I find that if a character doesn't have some form of backstory that shows how they can be even vaguely relevant to a plot then I don't really see much point in them being there. A friend and myself have started a second draft of our book and we've dropped one of the main three characters because our third has lost interest in actually writing, her parts didn't really have much relevance to the plot and her character was seriously under developed.
     
  10. The Unseemly

    The Unseemly Troubadour

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    Ah yes? I prefer to "integrate" backstories with the main plotline: I found that one of the big cons of backstories is that it's distracting the reader from the general storyline (unless, of course, it has greater relevance to the main storyline, much like the Gollum/Smeagul story). Also keeping backstories obscure adds a certain mystical element to the characters, which I like.
     
  11. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

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    Definitely. Generally very basic, though. I mostly write points that will influence something in the plot. It helps to give the character context as well, a reason for his or her motives, the way they see the world they are currently in. It's a useful tool for me, the writer, to refer back to. You don't have to tell the reader all of it.
     
  12. PlotHolio

    PlotHolio Sage

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    Backstories are awesome.
     
  13. Yes I do. Rough bios, I make sure to leave sections blank if I don't feel I'm ready to fill it in, and probably there will be bits which will always remain blank, because its not for me to know. I find it helps a lot, I'm way more confident writing a character if I have established some idea of backstory for them often for purely self-reference. Otherwise I just don't know them, I don't know how to use them or write them.
     
  14. crash

    crash Scribe

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    I tend to give my main characters sort of a sketch of a back story, mostly amounting to date of birth, parents, siblings and something about their early years. Depending on my mood, I might pick a Myers-Briggs or Keirsey personality type, too.
     
  15. Masronyx

    Masronyx Minstrel

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    It's a double edged sword for me.

    I've found that if I do a background story on a character, it'll either make or break that person; only because it will become too mired for me to continue because I get stuck on that particular story instead of the main one. My character backgrounds are more simplistic; their birth and upbringing and the events that led them to where they are when the story starts. Sometimes I get too mired with the the story of their parents or if I find a new character, it'll be either his/her child or a descendant. I've done that too often and gotten stuck too many times. It is great to find out why your character is the way he/she is, and how they got to that point. But for me, there is such a thing as going in too deep.
     
  16. Alexandra

    Alexandra Troubadour

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    There are no "cons" related to giving your characters personal histories or back stories as you call them, only "pros".
     
  17. Bonesaw

    Bonesaw New Member

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    Yes.

    The more prevalent they are, the more the backstory matters to me.
     
  18. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Main POV characters... yes.

    Secondary characters...yes, if their story is relevant to the overall plot or any sub-plot.

    Minor characters...no, only rough sketches or outlines. No real back story.
     
    Devora likes this.
  19. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    What T.Allen.Smith said... :)
    It helps iron out any conflicts, omissions and plot snarls that could crop up later in the story.
     
  20. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

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    I also make a table/chart with the year of various characters' births and major life events. It's a good time-chart to figure out how old characters are in relation to each other (etc) throughout the story, and how old they were when certain major events happened. For example, a new King is crowned, there is a war, etc. This is particularly useful if the characters are related (not just by blood but by circumstance). Few authors mention exact ages I've noticed, but it's helpful to know what the rough ages are, so that I don't accidentally make the King 90 years old or something.

    This can also help plot snarls that may crop up.
     
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