Character Backstory and Why You Need It

424863_10150565031583912_2046016596_nI’m not in the habit of giving writing advice.  But I would like to share with you what I think is an important fact about a story’s characters.

So, a little backstory on this post.  When I was writing what I thought was going to be my masterpiece as an author, but turned out to be an extremely poorly-received disaster that I’ve left up only so it may serve as a warning to others, I would, before writing, literally imagine myself sitting down with the character whose perspective the story was being told from, and listen to them tell me what happened.

Though that particular eBook was less than successful…or well executed on my part…it did teach me a valuable lesson about character-building and character arcs, that I like to think that I’ve followed through on with the Omniverse Series: namely, making the characters believable, real people, by thinking about them, sometimes even by listening to them before ever even writing about them, unless it is during the broad-stroke stages of an early draft.

I’ve never believed in heroes and villains; I’ve always looked to protagonists and antagonists, and tried to think, reasonably and without judgement, about what led these people to these particular places.

Sometimes, I’ve only sketched these background into a story; such as was the case with Paul Santino from The Unearthing.  Unfortunately, the adventures of his militant activist youth will forever be left up to the imagination of the reader, as it is to me.  There was just no way to insert it properly into the narrative.  But his motives in the second book are rooted in his experiences in the first.

Other times, a character’s arc has taken them from antagonist/villain to protagonist/antihero.  Such is the case of Colonel Isaac Jude, who literally told me to rewrite his character arc in Through Darkness and Stars; I had originally written him as getting killed off in one of the final chapters, and he basically looked me in the eye, and said “No, that’s not what happens.  Go back and start over.  Rewrite everything that has to do with me.” And his story arc changed from what was originally written.  He even plays a significant part in the fourth book of the Omniverse series, which I will get to writing when I’m done with my two current projects. It’s like Ross told Rachel: We’re on a break.

As evidenced by Jude, some of the story from The Download I’ve previously talked about was scrambled.  Fortunately, the characters are always there to help me sort it out.

Other times, a character’s story arc is simpler, though the repercussions for them are far greater; such as Chronicles of the Aeons Wars‘ Yeung Acshah, whose entire life and destiny are reshaped by unfathomable tragedy, and fueled by insatiable hatred for her enemy, the Zohor.  For me, it’s where she finds herself after all that, that I find her story gets really interesting.  I will also be exploring it, when it comes time to write the fourth of five intended books in The Omniverse.

Some may find the fifth and final book in The Omniverse superfluous.  Others may outright hate it.  But it, too has been planned as part of this story, since the beginning.  It, too, will be told; the story would truly be incomplete without it.  I plan on writing the last two books of The Omniverse one after the other, hopefully without a break in between – except for some serious research – to conclude the series, and hopefully answer everyone’s questions, as quickly as possible.  I may or may not work on other projects concurrently, depending on where I am with The Omniverese, and of course, my own life.

As to the characters that populate either The Omniverse or the other two novels I’m working on right now, It is important for me to have real, human, fallible people populating the worlds I write about.  I want them to be real; I want to feel engaged in their story, whether I agree or disagree with them or their motives.

You’re writing about Human Beings.  You owe it to them, fictional or not, to treat them as such.  We are three-dimensional entities.  Make sure your characters are, too.

Oh yeah, one more thing: every one of the characters I mentioned above, are secondary or tertiary characters.  Each of them is part of the weave, and therefore has their story and place.  Remember that, as well, when you think of your characters, and when you write about them.