Backstories are a crucial part of character development and creation, used by authors to provide character’s background. Backstory has two main jobs to fulfill: (1) to reveal important information about the main characters, and (2) to help depict a fully realized story world.

A character’s backstory comprises data of his/her history, revealing how the character became who he/she is, and why they act or thinks in a certain way. It also reveals era, family history, and world events (such as wars). This is a great way to illuminate the origins of behaviors and motives.

Devising backstories is a crucial part of character creation since it will inform the reader of the main narrative. Writing character backstories directly relates to the worldbuilding process. It’s a way to create fully formed characters who resemble real people with nuanced personality traits.

The most crucial functions backstory can: (1) raise the stakes, (2) reveal motivations, (3) express innermost fears, and (4) reveal obstacles.

Backstories are essential in order to create memorable, authentic characters.

4 Valuable tips:

  1. Build a timeline of the character’s life events. Plotting out the key events of their past can help the reader better understand your character’s personality and point of view. What were they like at a young age? What was their high school experience like? Did they have a best friend? When was the first time they fell in love? Continue plotting out these key events until you reach the time period of your story.
  2. Backstory details must be relevant. Focus on backstory that directly informs the plot points and conflicts that your character experiences. If your character’s best friend dies, include a backstory that explains the depth of their friendship, deepening the emotional stakes.
  3. Draw inspiration from real life events. Writing a believable character backstory can be difficult, which makes it beneficial to draw inspiration from real life. Think about the way you recount formative events in your own life. Taking note of other people’s backstories will make your character’s backstory seem all the more authentic and genuine.
  4. Show, don’t tell to avoid info-dumps. Use this writing technique to develop a character’s personal history through actions, sensory details, or emotions. Reveal your main character’s past life through tangible details and flashbacks can help the reader gain insight into the character’s background.
  5. Your first chapter should not be overloaded with backstory. When writing the first draft  it can be tempting to get all of your character’s backstory out of the way at the beginning. However, front-loading your novel with backstory and long-winded details will likely cause the reader to get bored, getting in the way of plotting and conflict.

Backstory is what happened in characters’ lives before the beginning of the story. Think of it as their personal history.


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“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.” 

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