Backstory is the tale before the beginning of our book. All of our characters have a backstory. But, only a small part is vital to our book—to our readers.
Remember, most backstory is not needed or wanted. If there’s too much, as with cayenne, and it will overwhelm our readers, then they’ll close the book and find something else to read.
So, how do we know what to tell and what to leave out?
As I wrote in my August 19 blog (see Archives) Getting to Know your Characters, authors have to know everything about their characters. 90% to 95% of this knowledge will never be published. However, the information is important so we know everything about them; their personality type, history, goals, fears, the lies they believe, who and/or what they care about, and their motivation.
Once we have detailed information about our characters, store it where it can be referred to often. I write mine on lined paper and place them in a three-ringed binder for just that book.
Next week we will tackle: Where should all the backstory tidbits be sprinkled in your book?
Until then, get to know your characters. Interview them and ask them all the embarrassing questions, just remember that just a small portion of this will be written in your book.
**No gossiping about the characters—unless it is for marketing, of course!
Now it’s your turn. Share your thoughts on backstory in the comments box below.
If there's one thing all writers agree on, it's that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we're passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry...and then start the process all over again as we realize there's room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn't have it any other way.
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Could One Stop For Writers be the writing partner you've been searching for? Visit Writers Helping Writers this week and see why Angela, Lee, and Becca are celebrating their venture with prizes and some pay-it-forward fun.
Once you have visited One Stop For Writers, come on back to this blog and share your thoughts with us.
In The Tirwine, my favorite character is Sa’dora. She’s the main character. Sa’dora is seventeen years old in human years, but she’s not human. She’s 153 in Tirwine. I like the fact that she’s a very complex character. She’s a natural leader, born with gifts and abilities that would enable her to be one of the most powerful Tirwine.
At the Governors’ Ball, she became hurt and anger when she thought the Wisas had given her menial jobs because of her lack of abilities. Her emotions vacillated between fear and the thought she that she would mess something up if she tried to protect the humans from the Gehata.
Sa’dora has forced me to study the many layers of our emotions and to understand how they interact with each other and drive our actions.
It's your turn, who is your favorite fictional character? And why?
I went to the conference to talk to agents and ask questions about marketing. I also wanted their thoughts on the characters in my series. I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of them asked questions about my book, the plot, backstory, and characters. One said it sounded interesting, even though I had only 30 pages done.
What a wonderful bonus! I'm ready to get back to writing!
Another agent told me some things I need to fix. She was very polite and showed me a couple of areas that stood out to her.
I must say I feel positive about my first experience to the ACFW conference.
Thank you to all the agents, editors, and mentors for the hours they spent listening to our pitches!
Thank you to the ACFW board and volunteers who made this a wonderful and educational time!
Now it’s your turn. What were your experiences at the conference? What one thing did you learn that made the trip well worth the time and money?
However, I still have some last minute things to finish, the things that tend to take more time than we thought.
* Make sure the family/pets have food while you’re gone
* Fold, roll, and then refold my clothes - so they don’t wrinkle
* Do the dishes before I leave the house
* Water the plans
*Vacuum, sweep, and dust
Then, of course, there’s all the conference stuff:
* One last edit before printing
*Make copies and put them in the correct order and places in their folders
* Practice your pitch, again
My ride is here!
I hope I did everything that HAD to be done. The vacuuming will just have to wait.
I can’t wait until next week to share, to tell you about everything!
What are your last minute struggles before a trip?
Please share for those who haven’t left, yet.
When I started getting desperate, I headed back to the internet to see if any successful writers had shared their plans.
Guess what. Several had.
I studied them, copied their ideas in my planner.
I still couldn’t follow them.
So, I decided to share my 5 mistakes that kept me from reaching my writing goals with you.
1. Keep track of the time it takes us to do different chores—usually we don’t allow enough time and become stressed, and then creativity ceases
2. Allow time for breaks – if we don’t we’ll get tired and keep pushing ourselves until we’re exhausted and out of ideas
3. Don’t eat meals at our desks. Enough said.
4. Straying. When we get tired, many of us checked our social media, and then either stay too long .
5. After checking my social media, I go to Games and play Hearts. What is your weakness?
What do you do that keeps you from reaching your goals?
Do you have any other suggestions?
Please add your comments below.
I wanted my characters to be more than just believable. More than one dimensional.
Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake Guy, in his June 2015 issue of AdvancedFictionWriting, spoke very highly of the second edition of Brandilyn Collins’ book Getting Into Character. Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist who’s published 26 novels and several other nonfiction books.
So, I bought the book.
Brandilyn Collins reveals seven “Secrets” that actors use to “get into character”. In the book, each key has its own chapter.
Secret #1 Personalizing
Secret #2 Action Objectives
Secret #3 Subtexting
Secret #4 Coloring Passions
Secret #5 Inner Rhythm
Secret #6 Restraint and Control
Secret #7 Emotion Memory
I would highly recommend this book. Collins, utilizing excellent examples, shows how authors can dig deeper into their characters- their past, their emotions, personality traits, objectives, and motivations, through in-depth questions. After reading the book, authors will be able to delve into their character’s inner workings to birth a three-dimensional, complicated, and seemingly real individual. Authors will learn how to add their character’s distinctive reactions to life situations to move the story forward.
The only one downfall to the book and it is small. It doesn’t have a table of contents or index.
Now, who is your favorite character and why? Comment below.
** The reality is simple: we will face problems and setbacks. They can show up as:
Boulders - another name for them are life’s interruptions—slow us down as we lumber over them: phone calls; the Internet is out, again; the dishwasher stops working; oh, and my favorite-laundry
Bridges - at first glance, seem more important, but in the long scheme – they aren’t. We organizing our files—by color; decorating our offices, desks, or work areas; spending hours looking for just the right name for our character’s pet dog or cat or hamster;
Boat on a lake - ah, just a short break (which, or course, we all need, right?). However, it turns into hours away from our writing: we fall asleep; play the game one more time; or watch just one more episode.
Stairs - we spend too much time climbing the steps to perfecting our craft and not enough time writing. We can only improve our writing by writing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t read trade books because we should, we need to so we can learn, but not to the point that we stop writing.
Like anything else in our lives, we can let them rule us. Or we can make the decision to turn around, face our computers and type.
What do you do to get back to writing? Share your ideas/suggestions below in comments.
Have a great week and until next time, KEEP WRITING!
Below are lists of things to consider about your characters before you begin to write.
* Height & weight
* Skin tone
* Hair – color, length, style, straight, curly, or wavy
* Eyes – color, size, glasses
* Remarkable physical characteristics – hunched back, pock marks, handicaps, glasses
* Age – most times this isn’t necessary if you’ve described them using the above
* Quiet and shy
* Out going
* A leader
* Student or occupation
* Childhood – happy, loved, spoiled, abusive, neglected, adopted, foster care, raised by other family members
* What did the character learn from his/her upbringing? Distrust? Hope? Anger? Low self-confidence?
Current Outlook on life:
* How does the character’s past affect his/her life today? Everyone owes him?
That life is painful? She has to fight for what she wants?
* What is most important to the character? Acceptance? Love? Money? Power?
Others see the character as:
* Physically – nice looking, sloppy, lacking respect for self
* Temperament – angry, fearful, happy, easy to get along with, work-a-holic, emotional
* Core values – trustworthy, thief, stingy, prejudice
* Positive – What does the character learn that make’s life easier/more fulfilling?
* Unchanged – What is the character holding on to that will not allow him/her to get through the past?
* Negative – What happened that causes the character to become/follow evil more than before?
* Running fingers through hair, clearing throat, standing on one foot
* “You know.”
These are a few ideas to think about. I’m sure you have or will discover others as you develop your characters.
Please share ideas you use to make your characters real, deep, and human in the comment box below.
With that said, I guess the hardest thing for me to deal with is head hopping. I’ve read many books where the author is in everyone’s head. Without tags informing the reader who’s the POV, it’s hard to understand what’s going on. Recently, I read a book, by a new author. In a particularly long, run-on sentence, the author had the thoughts of three characters. A comma separated each thought.
I did not complete that book.
As authors and readers, we do not expect perfection. However, when there are many mistakes, it becomes obvious that the author did not have it proofread by a professional.
So, in a nutshell, besides head-hopping, my pet peeve—too many mistakes!
What about you? What is your pet peeve? After a week, I’ll tally all the comments. Then I’ll post the results. Come one, come all. Come vote!!
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