Every Character Deserves a Backstory

So, I’m learning to be more open-minded as a person when dealing with conflict. I have to consider the fact that the way I view things is not the only view of the situation. There are always three sides to a story– there’s his side, her side, and the truth. BUT there is also ALWAYS a backstory.

A backstory tells what happened in the past, which influences the present.

The front story is the main story that is told (usually the present), and it’s always moving forward. The backstory not only adds definition to the front story, it adds meaning to the character as well because it allows the reader to understand what the character was like in the past. — and sometimes knowing what the character was like in the past, helps the reader to know why the character acts the way he does in the present.

The two main jobs the backstory has is to help the overarching story thrive.

  • Job 1 = To help expose facts and characteristics about the man character
  • Job 2 = To present a realistic character and front story.

Those two jobs help fill in gaps for the reader. It’s how the reader learns about family history, what influences the character to be who they are in the present, and current world events (like wars and political tensions). This is where the author gets to tell all about the character they developed.

This is why thoroughly plotting your character is essential because the backstory (family history, childhood experiences, childhood friends, old relationships, etc.) pushes the story along and gives the front story meaning. It tells the reader why the story they’re reading is happening and why the character is having a difficult time reaching their goal.

Deciding when and where to use backstory can be tricky at times because you don’t want to include irrelevant information (facts that don’t help tell the front story). Strategically choosing to use backstory involves deciphering what is being accomplished with each scene, and it’s essential to know the functions of the backstory to be able to do so.

Crucial Functions of the Backstory:

  • Raise the stakes
  • Reveal motivations
  • Express innermost fears
  • Reveal obstacle

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