Welcome to this weeks Craft Post. This was going to be the last post in the series on characters, but I found a page yesterday that reminded me of a very important part that makes up characters. This part makes your character a the “hero” or the “villain” in different people’s eyes. That will be next weeks post. Want to know what it is? You can scroll to the bottom to find out. This week’s post is on character background, but before I start I just want to say I hope everyone’s writing week is going well. Mine, not so much. Still haven’t written anything. I’ll cover it on Monday’s weekly writing wrap-up. Let’s dive right in, shall we.

Every character has a past, right? Unless your novel starts at the moment the character is born they have a past. If you can come up with a very unique to have the story starts at the main characters birth and not jump to when they are older, awesome. However, your older characters will have a past.

“Background Definition: the complex of physical,

cultural, and psychological factors that serves

as the environment of an event or experience;

the set of conditions against which

an occurrence is perceived.” -Dictionary.Com

This is a quick definition I found for a background. I like it while it is a little heady, it captures what background for a character is. My personal definition is a little more straightforward

“Character background is the events the character has lived through leading up to the story.”

has lived through leading up to the story.”

While mine doesn’t cover the details of physical, cultural, and psychological as the first definition, I do cover them when I write my characters backgrounds. If you are thinking wow, this is a lot to cover. What if I pick events that don’t make sense to why my characters act the way they do? You are not alone. I use to worry about that myself. Let me give you a little hint, what no one does. As much as we know about the human mind and we still can’t say that if you have parents who ignore their children, will go on to do the same on their own, or will act out and be trouble makers.

I have worked with children for years, and I can tell you that you can have the best parents in the world and the child can still be a jerk. I have seen kids who come from quote unquote “good homes” and the kids are bullies. I have seen kids who come from broken homes who are the nicest kids in the world. We just don’t know what will cause someone to act a specific way. You can go back to the old argument of nature vs. nature. How much do our genes our heritage determine who we are? I fall far more in the nature camp then nature, but nature has a part. Though we know we can overcome our nature if we want to. This is why when I write my characters history, it is usually last. I know how my characters act and allow me to think through what kinds of (horrible) events I can put them through that could make them act that way.

Don’t worry about making events in the past try to explain why your characters act as they do. Some are more believable the others, but you know your characters and can do whatever you want. There are cliques that you can use, like broken home, parents don’t pay attention to the child so that child is a trouble maker. I can tell you this, I have seen that clique a lot. It is true. If you want to use that as a reason, awesome but put your own spin on it. Why do they come from a broken home? Did their father die when he was young or did her mother? Did as a child did they witness their sibling/parent/dog/cousin/aunt/grandparent die? Maybe, their mother blames them for their father leaving?

I like to mix part of my plot into my characters history, which is easier when you have plot heavy story. Usually, a big reason why my characters act the way they do is because of events leading up to the events of the plot that happened long before they were born. I will give you an example, in my Forbidden Realm series that I am trying to get finished so I can start writing, my two leads are two sisters who are apart. They were separated when they were four years old, from each other and their family. Now, as teens, they react differently. One doesn’t make relationships easily because of fear of losing them. The other is desperate to feel loved and eagerly seeks relationships.

Of course, there are far more reasons for this, and part of requires me to go into the plot of the series. I’ll give you one more, which is on the nature side of the argument. Both girls are stubborn as hell. It comes across differently and is there. Where do they get it you ask? They get it from their father who does eventually shows up. The more events you put into your character past and that can help explain their personality the better. Are you asking yourself, great, but how do I do this? If you don’t know how to do this, I hope you are asking yourself this. There are several ways to do it.

Interview your characters. Ask them questions and see what kind of answers they give you. Don’t accept one-word answers. To prevent this, ask open-ended questions. Something like, what was your childhood like? If the character piles on the details about how mom drank herself to sleep, while dad was never around. Their brother killed their dog doing something stupid and blame it on him. Great you just learnt a lot about this character. One, some of their history and to, they are very open.

If the character answers with something like, “Why do you want to know?” That isn’t much, but you learnt something. This character is guarded. How guarded? Keep asking questions and you will find out. Do they answer your first question after you give a reason? If so, they aren’t really that guarded. What if they don’t answer your questions until after you asked them fifteen different ones. And it is very little information they give, okay they are really guarded.

There are websites all over the internet that devote questions you can ask yourself when you are thinking about your characters. To give you a starting place, go here to have a few questions. You need to scroll down a little, but there are other questions there besides background. A quick Google search will give you several websites to check out.

You can do something I do on occasion. Remember when you were a kid and your parents did something that you didn’t like and you said when I am adult or a mother or a father I am never going to do that? I do, of course now and most of them I would do. There are things I know I wouldn’t do because they were big things. Use them. They don’t have to be yours, they can be friends, other family members, or people you have had conversations with. Once you have one, follow the trail back to why they would do this. A character who wants to be a stay home parent, simple solution their parents always worked and were never around. This can also lead to that character being too clingy to their kids and over protective.

The characters background is one of the more fun things to write because you get to explore why your characters are so screwed up. Yes, even if they are “normal” they are screwed up. One of the best ways to figure out the character is to discover their history. I am starting to do this more. While I need to know a few key details about them, the rest I discover as I write. It isn’t easy, but I am adapting. Who says that you need to know everything? If you just need a few details then that is what you should do. The only way you will know what works for you is experimenting and not say no that’s not me when it becomes hard. Every part of writing is hard. The more you do it, the of a feeling you will know if this is for you or not. Your response will be it just doesn’t feel right instead of its too hard. Trust you gut.

One last thing, character backgrounds are where you can info dump the hell out of. I know it isn’t the same as writing twenty-seven pages on your characters past in the very beginning of the book. I do feel it helps me not be able to do it. The more I know and the more I write the better I get at figuring out where to drop a few crumbs on my characters backstory. Give it a try. Beyond that, that is all I have for this week craft post. I hope it helps and that you will check back for next weeks Penultimate post on characters. Yes, this is where I am going to give you the answer to the topic I completely forgot about. The topic of that post will be Character MOTIVATIONS. I am kind of glad I forgot until now, as it fits perfectly into the order I have been going in. Yes, you heard me correctly… read correctly there will be two more posts. After motivations, I will do a wrap-up of the series before moving on to… a topic I haven’t thought of.

Please check back on Monday for my Weekly Writing Wrap-up. Hopefully, I will be able to say I wrote, at least, something in it by then. That is all, hope you all have a good weekend.




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