Setting: Resulting Effects

Hinting at Backstory

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To achieve a deeper level of characterization and provide insight into the hero’s motivation, writers occasionally need to introduce backstory. Backstory, which is a character’s defining experiences and interactions that occurred before the novel begins, is a difficult element to wield, simply because this necessary information also provides a minefield of problems if it's not handled correctly. There are two types of backstory: visible backstory for readers and hidden backstory for authors. Both are important, and both are absolutely necessary to build a successful novel.

Hidden backstory is all the great stuff authors need to understand about their characters, especially the hero or heroine. Among other things, this might be knowing the characters' passions and beliefs, how a skill or talent came about, who influenced them in good ways and bad throughout their life, the fears they grapple with, and the source of their deepest emotional wounds.

Knowing our characters intimately means we are able to write them authentically: every action, decision, and choice will line up with who they are deep down. But if we don’t take the time to chart our characters' backstories, we won’t know what makes them tick or why they do the things they do. Chances are, we’ll end up with one-dimensional characters who won’t hold the reader’s attention beyond a few pages.


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