Today I will discuss backstory and why it is very important to a story. Very important. Both backstory and lore are the best ways to display honesty in fiction.
Honesty is camouflage that makes the author disappear. It is what makes stories believable and there is no way to make a protagonist more believable than adding a backstory. You must always have a backstory. Always. It is, however up to you to write the backstory or not, for honesty in fiction affects both reader and writer… even when it is not included.
It is easier to tell a lie believing it than to tell the lie and know it for what it is. By adding a backstory it will be easier for both author and reader to connect to a character even though it might not be included in the novel. Adding it may affect pacing, but go on ahead if you feel it is important to the story.
You can add a backstory in implicit and explicit ways. Keep in mind that there is power in subtlety. Backstories have a way of making characters seem more real, because every human being has a backstory. It may not be grand, but we do have backstories. Another thing backstories accomplish is that it establishes motive. When a character acts, the reader will gasp at certain stages and say that it fits in with who the character is.
In other instances it may be better to hide a backstory. The Joker may be the best example of this as this leaves people with questioning his motives. This establishes his anarchism. He lies about his past, because his main motive is not his past. Most stories have their heroes grounded in past experiences. Some may be related to childhood.
This spine is to a character as lore is to a world. Next time I’ll discuss lore.
What are your thoughts on backstory? When would you include it? Is it important to you? Let me know.
I believe in multiple arcs in stories. When doing a story with round characters, one arc is the minimum for a character. This title may be a reference to math, but believe me stories are anything, but mathematical. It was just a cute way of asking whether you wanted to build all arcs from the bottom.
Sin 0=0. You know the curve (it does not apply to most stories) but stories change and only authors know where arcs end. They surely do not end at the same place… mostly. However if a story has multiple arcs, this title becomes very important. For example one arc is a previously ruined romantic relationship and the main arc has the protagonist stepping up as a hero. Now, you may well want to show the relationship for starting at ground zero, however you have limited time and space your story may not be about that relationship. Here you will be dealing with backstory.
It all depends on the author. If stories’ character and relationship arcs were to be put on a single graph you would have some weird form of modern art. It would look just like a jungle of ups and downs. However if two of these points are dealt with in a story and their difference is great…well we have a new ball game. Say arc A and arc B are both developing, but arc B is rising and arc A s dropping. Here you have some serious internal and external conflict going on. Dramatic kaboom!
When those lines meet. Man get ready for some hard hitting stuff. To most people reading this, what I am saying may not make sense, but that is since I am vague and I am only trying to ramble my journey. Stories can not be put into boxes. That is a lie we tell ourselves to keep us safe. Many authors have a formula and one arc and it works for them. All these terminology are just made up as well.
Maybe I am imagining another dimension, but hey… this is fiction.
Keep on writing, dreaming and plotting. Next up I will discuss the spine of a story. Do not worry…. it won’t be vague like this.
Let’s face it. We remember childhood fables all too well. You may think that it is simple at first, because it is, but it is also a strong tool writers’ can use now and then. The other day I replayed a videogame that used a fable to characterize its protagonist. Now, I don’t mean to spoil any story you may or may never know, but it was powerful. Let me just say that the whole story’s emotions could have been summed up by all the jackdaw’s fables.
The jackdaw fables all depict negative qualities in man: vanity, pride and overconfidence. The bird also loves shiny things which ties in well with the character. Using fables in other stories may seem like a cop out. I mean there surely are more subtler (subtlety is key) ways to show your characters, but here the symbol needs to be revealed slowly. How so? Many people are not aware of the fable of the jackdaw and the eagle and it is never mentioned until the end. The protagonist liked the bird and called his ship, the Jackdaw. So this is a matter of knowledge. People who know the fable would easily see the foreshadowing, but the beauty of this symbol is that it has different meanings and does not have to be applied directly.
Let me put it like this. In the end you may call the protagonist a jackdaw, but you may only be right to a certain extent. Those thoughts of why will linger with you. This is because we easily attach meaning to symbols. What impressed me most was the fact that there are subtle hints at the fables and that this story reminds you of the fables while being a complete story on its own.
Using imagery, both known and personal is a clever way to characterize, period. We use animals in our everyday language. You know the similes.
What are your thoughts on fables and use of imagery? Share if you will.
The alarms had cried wolf
in the past of the city of art.
War waged on the outskirts,
but inside the warm cheers
were for circus men.
Merry songs were drowned out by the sirens.
The sirens sang a horror line,
but joy burned fear.
Then the dark heat came.
With blasts so stark to peaceful town-
jitters and titters changed into screaming.
Doves- phoenixes, shattered glass, crying,
wailing, sulfur cast ruled the air
and broken ground.
People were trapped in the tar cauldron.
Merciless British heaped hellfire on civilians.
Evil Nazis screamed in fear.
Children, orphans. Mothers, childless.
Dead families. Broken ones gathered on the dump, but
the second wave would melt them too.
Royals, chin up.
It is Winston Churchill’s porcelain cup.