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Should i flesh out the backstory?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I've noticed that with my 3 MCs only two of them have really fleshed out back stories.

    To be short:

    one saw her mother get murdered and became a royal agent at the age of 16.

    the other suffered from a plague sickness and became a warrior/royal bodyguard despite his disability.

    the third (and lead protagonist)...grew up in a town and likes being a bard.

    Is this a problem?

    Should i flesh out the third guy's story, or should i advantage of the lack of an interesting back-story?
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Do these backstories appear in the actual story? Are we talking flashbacks or a prologue or some such?
  3. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    Not every character needs a 'backstory', but they should feel like characters. If you think your character feels to generic, try giving that character some characteristics. If you've already got that, I don't think any more characters necessarily need backstories unless relevant to the overall story.
  4. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    If the characters are feeling pretty rounded and the backstories don't serve the plot, then I would probably leave them out. If the backstories serve the story in some way then I would definitely add them in. Everything should add to the plot and the journey of the characters in some way though.
  5. Kazzan

    Kazzan Dreamer

    If you want to get to know your character better yourself you could flesh out his backstory a bit. Of course it might be extra work if it never shows up in the actual story, but might be worth it for a more consistent character. Personally, even though I dont have a well fleshed out background for a character I like to drop references to things they've done in the past when I get the chance.
  6. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Certainly you know about all three characters and their back stories, even if they're mundane and not potentially very exciting for readers.

    Use opportunities within the context of the stories and actions to add bits of the back stories as needed. You don't need tons of flashbacks and one character explaining what happened when he was a kid, unless it moves the story forward, provides needed characterization within the context of the story at the time/current events.

    You meet a new friend who moved it from out of town. You might get the basics of who they are and where they came from, but by hanging out, you spontaneously learn things about them...through their words and actions and little stories and experience. Just like they learn about you. Some people haven't done exciting things or had traumatic experiences in their lives. They can still be fun friends and interesting, strong people. And some people have had very dire events occur. It affects who they are but you as a friend may not come to know exactly what it was until many years have passed.

    It's similar in writing/telling a story.
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I'm going to give a disclaimer: I didn't read the above posts so someone probably said what I'm about to say.

    Every character has traits: motivation, goals, personality, strengths and so forth. The practical, utilitarian purpose of a backstory is giving an explanation for the characters' traits. If there's no reason to explain their traits, then you don't need a backstory.
    If this dude was a prince but wanted to be a bard then it would be like "why would a prince want to be a bard? We need a backstory to explain it".
    This barbarian plays a mean lute; why would a barbarian be playing a lute? We need a backstory.
    Some dude wanting to be a bard? Hey, why wouldn't some dude want to be a bard?

    Interestingly, I had the same probably with my lead character: he was just a guy who wanted to be a bard. So, I asked myself what was it about bards that would appeal to him and I decided that the character likes the image of a traveling poet because it suits his desire for independence and self-introspection. And then I tied these traits into his relationship with his family and - just like that - the character had a goal, a motivation and a very simple but serviceable backstory.
  8. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Dialog is your friend. Short and sweet mentions of past events can work well. This may not work for all characters but for some it may save you some time and keep the pace of the story more fluid.
  9. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    As others have said, there are several ways to give information about a backstory. Just think of how we learn about each other as humans. Communication for sure, but also mannerisms, habits, little ticks that we have... everything helps teach others about who we are. The reader can learn much about your character through their actions. If it is unnecessary to include part of the backstory, then don't include it. If it can happen organically and serve a purpose to the story, then go for it :)

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