1. Ged

    Ged New Member

    Oct 6, 2009
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    Trouble making character backgrounds

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ged, Dec 20, 2010.

    The title pretty much reveals everything.

    I'm having problems coming up with backstory for a lot of my characters. I have no idea what stuff could happen in their childhood to affect their present personality, or their goals, or stuff like that.

    And no, I don't plan to dump the characters' backstories in a huge monologue or anything, but I need them to form a better view of the characters.

  2. Islander

    Islander Contributor Contributor

    Jul 29, 2008
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    Maybe you could look at the back stories of real and fictional people you know (about) and fantasise around them to come up with your own?
  3. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    With my characters I talk to them, one keeps a blog, I have word boxes (for words they would use and I wouldn't), I have 'scrapbooks' basically a collection of google images and phrases that remind me of the characters, I write short stories about them (right now trying to tackle one from the point of view of my one hundred and fifty year old character aged seven not going so well yet lol), I change my profile here to represent the character I am writing. I give all the main characters a theme tune and play it when writing about them. However nothing reveals backstory as much as completing the first draft of my novel, I know much more about them at the end - then they deepen and their personality is more rounded on the rewrite.
  4. Creative David

    Creative David New Member

    Aug 17, 2010
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    Essex, UK
    If it's a real problem, then don't worry too much. Carry on writing and develop the details (on a seperate sheet) as you go. If you're still on a first draft, you can always spend time with deepening your characters in later drafts.
  5. Pook

    Pook New Member

    Dec 13, 2010
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    Let the charachters develop themselves with the situations they get into, how they answer questions etc
    1 person likes this.
  6. Allegro Van Kiddo

    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

    Dec 15, 2010
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    You have to do some thinking and make a psychological profile for your characters. Years ago, I worked for the prison system and used to do that for a variety of reasons, but most for parole so they could make a calculated guess at the inmate's risk potential if released.

    Let's say you're doing a story about a warrior. A warrior is someone who wants to kill people and maybe enjoys it too. Since fighting is his prime vocation, what makes him want to do this?


    1. He was raised by other warriors and taught to devalue life. So, he doesn't have insight in why he's a warrior, it's just like a habit.

    2. He was very poor and his whole village was starving. He saw fighting as the only way to be superior in a pathetic world.

    3. He used to be nice but someone he loved was murdered and decided to kill killers.

    4. They're a professional soldier who believes that their nation can only survive through the use of strong warriors.

    Those are some examples of why people would get into killing others for a living, and of course there's more than that. Unless a person is psychotic (their thoughts aren't logical) they need a drastic reason for that profession. For instance, it would be unlikely that the village baker would suddenly do a mental filp and decide to hack people to death with swords.

    In real life everyone has a backstory and even some working at a mini-market on the corner is there for a reason. A person like that might have ennui and never got interested in school and that's because their dad was a mean drunk and life seems about nothing. A fireman might have a lot of focus and want to save lives because XYZ.

    I suggest that you either ask around, or use yourself as a guide for the character. Sit back and imagine what would make you turn into the character you're developing.
  7. tcol4417

    tcol4417 Member

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Sydney, AU
    I always develop my characters from the centre outwards: Start with what makes them who they are and then look for realistic causes, then take creative liberties as is your right.

    The best way is to pitch their basic premise to someone and then get them to ask questions.


    S. Fisher is a charismatic lady-killer and urban mercenary - kind of a cross between a private eye and hit-man.

    Where did his hit-man skills come from? - He's ex-military. Ranked high enough to have control of some forces, but not so high that he doesn't know what it's like to take bad orders. (Aptitude with firearms and tactics, possible military contacts)

    Where did his PI skills come from? - Very streetwise, after a youth spent living on the streets. (Thick-skinned, tough, possibility for past to come back and haunt him)

    How does a street urchin become a ranked soldier? - His town was an impoverished settlement in a highly volatile area and was liberated by a charitable army. The army's leader inspired him to join (Vocational employment. Allows development of father figure, possible moral betrayal later on)

    Why is he a lady killer? - Rocky past gives him a lot to forget. Drowns himself in booze, cigars and women when he's got nothing better to do. (current vices can overwhelm him)

    But he's a charismatic drug addict? - No drugs - military discipline. Charismatic because of the strong relationship he had with his troops in a rag-tag, unisex army of freedom fighters. (Furthers possibility of old friends and enemies)

    That's just a superficial example that I've gone through. If you keep asking yourself questions like this and giving genuine answers (don't just brush them off with dismissive explanations) you'll have an entire book's worth of material in short order.

    When in doubt, ask questions.

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