Creating A Character’s Backstory

Shutterstock / RG-vc © characters backstory

One way to make your main characters come to life in fiction is to give them a backstory. That’s when we learn more about a character’s backstory — their history, if you will.

Why do we need a backstory for our characters?

The most obvious one is to “flesh” out your characters and show the reader more about them.

It also gives context to behaviour and reactions. For example, our main male character is not a fan of weddings because he was left at the altar.

That’s the sort of information that can be woven into a story.

It can also give a sense of time or place. Perhaps your main character was a nurse or teacher during a war or conflict?

Maybe the grandmother in your story had been in service in a mansion house? Or maybe a wild child in the 1970s?

How to do it

Well, an easy way is via flashbacks. This can sometimes interrupt the flow of the story though.

Perhaps your character could be looking through old photos and reminiscing.

Discovering and rereading old letters.

Moving a uniform or object that was relevant to their life out the way.

Character’s backstory top tips

Create a timeline for your character. This way YOU will have a better idea of what era they lived through and what possibly influenced them.

DON’T overdo it. We don’t need 500 words on their history, please be more subtle than that.

Make it relevant to the story.

Think about how they speak and move.

Why not practise writing a character’s backstory first and see if a story idea springs from that.

Click here for more writing tips.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!