Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Every Character has a Backstory

With Imperfect out and Impeccable nearing completion, I thought it was time to talk about characters.

Now, it's obvious that writers focus on the lives of their main characters. What brought them to this point in the book? What were their lives like before this particular conflict? If you're gonna have a lead character, you need to have those questions answered. If you don't, your character will fall flat and you will lose your reader. A writer's worst nightmare.

But, what about those guys in the background? They're people too. How did they get here?

Perhaps one of the most famous stories about background characters is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. He took two minor characters from Hamlet and wrote out their stories. It's actually an incredible idea. Here are two characters who die in Hamlet, but why? Who were they? What brought them to their fated end?

Imperfect and Impeccable both have a large cast of characters. Who are all of these people whose lives somehow intertwine with those of Carol and Alex? How did they get there? What are their stories?

It's not always easy to answer those questions, especially when you have several characters to develop. Personally, I think it's important to acknowledge these background folk. They do have their own lives, those lives are just found in another book. I have straight people, gay people, haters, lovers, addicts and recovered addicts. Each and every one of them deserved to have their stories mentioned.

So, I did. There aren't huge backstories to all of these people, but you get the most important parts. You understand WHY these people are here and what their relationships are to Carol and Alex. You don't just get an announcement that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead like Shakespeare does in Hamlet. Even minor players, you still connect to my secondary or even tertiary characters. Should one experience joy, you will smile. Should one experience sorrow, a tear will escape your eye.

EVERY character deserves our time and attention. They are all people, all pieces to the greater puzzle of life. Each and every one of them has a life, and deserves to have their voice be heard. Every character has a backstory.

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