Thursday Thoughts: Universal Backstory

We’re halfway through April. It snowed this week. Always easier to social distance when the weather is yucky. But it’s April!?!? And being April, if I have any chance of meeting writing goals this year, I have to start shaking my tailfeathers.

When it comes to creating characters, one of the things the author needs to know is their backstory. I had a writing coach once say that you want to unveil a character’s history like you peel an onion–one layer at a time, and less is always better. Me? I love onions but I got the point. Often, I delude myself into thinking I know a character and then…BOOM! I discover I don’t know jack. I love when that happens. Many, MANY ❤ ❤ <3! Today's message from the Universe, while it totall works for people, also works for writers when they are deciding how much to reveal about a character.

Silver, what if today you could wipe the slate clean, start over, and write your own ticket?

No. Wait. Let’s change that. What if every day you could wipe the slate clean, start over, and write your own ticket?

How many days would have to go by before you discovered that your “slate” and your “ticket” have nothing to do with each other? That your past need not live in your future?

Your absolute freedom and total power lie in the present moment.

Tallyho, The Universe
© ®

Silver, every day we write the ticket for the rest of our lives, and the past only matters when we decide to include it.

See what I mean? Writers, how do you decide how much of a character’s history to include? Readers, how much do you want to know? I gotta say, just like us, characters should have their secrets too. 😉


About Silver James

I like walks on the wild side and coffee. Lots of coffee. Warning: My Muse runs with scissors. Author of several award-winning series--Moonstruck, Nightriders MC, The Penumbra Papers, and Red Dirt Royalty (Harlequin Desire) & other books! Purveyor of magic, mystery, mayhem and romance. Lots and lots of romance.
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2 Responses to Thursday Thoughts: Universal Backstory

  1. Yep, peeling the onion. The past is essential to shaping who we are, but not everything needs to be revealed right away or at all. Unless you need it to explain why there’s a certain character trait critical to the story. Plus, it adds flavor. I could’ve left out why Jace is afraid of fire in Dying Embers, but it would’ve made the story flatter.

    Then again, I’ve read stories where the backstory was too much. The author thought it was necessary, but as a reader, I could’ve lived without it – especially when the past is never tied into anything in the present. It’s a fine line. May we all walk it well.

    I’m not sure about the ‘wipe the slate and start over’ thing. It’s harder than it sounds, because the past is a difficult piece of luggage to set down and walk away from. Even if we really want to let it go. Maybe that’s just me. ::shrug:

    • Silver James says:

      Agreed on the slate thing, but at the same time, doing so as you write that character’s story allows the “surprises” to pop up at just the right time and the reader (and sometimes the author) sits up and shouts, “Aha!” as the light bulb clicks on. 😉

      Personally, there are times I WISH I could wipe that slate clean. My mental health might be the better for it. At the same time, I wouldn’t be who and what I am without that backstory. Like salt, backstory needs a light hand (and the ability to forgive ourselves…)

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