Twist your plot. Can your characters escape?

Karalee’s Post #133

twisterOne can spend a lifetime surfing the web and hanging out on social media. I’m choosing to cut back (I can actually choose how to spend all of my time) and I’m spending those minutes that often stretch into hours being more productive by reading books and working on my new business.

But every once in awhile a gem pops out from Facebook or Twitter. It happened today when I scrolled through my FB feed and I paused on a UTube that a friend posted. For some reason I clicked on it. Thanks Randy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoyS4wHPTc&sns=em

This tickled my murder mystery writing funny bone. The site is called Spy Escape & Evasion and subjects like this are good to jump-start your imagination and “what if…”

A few examples from this site are:

  • airplane survival secrets
  • how to become a human lie detector
  • how to escape handcuffs
  • how to escape zip ties
  • how to pick locks
  • how to disappear
  • how to escape rope
  • stun flashlight

Of course once you become immersed in discovery and contemplating how you might use new ideas in different ways in your fiction writing, you can spend all day surfing again.

Outliers

 

The internet easily becomes a circular web, catching the curious, the bored, the procrastinators, the blocked, the (put any excuse here….). It’s easy to go back to the first line in this blog:

One can spend a lifetime surfing the web and hanging out on social media.

The trick is to break the circle, use the internet with purpose and focus – and then get off.

 

Become an Outlier.

Can you?

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Perspective Photos:

grouse ice rink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

Stuck Writing? Try An Interview.

A quick post today. I wanted to share something I tried.

catzzHey, we all get stuck at some point. We reach a scene that just doesn’t work or a character that isn’t right, somehow, or some voice gets stuck in our head that says, go clean the spiders out the garage.

So, that happened to me yesterday. And the day before.

In both cases, I got out of my slump by harkening back to a book I read a while ago. Ok, to be honest, I was wondering around the office biting my fingernails and looking all writerly when I saw the book, but whatever. The book was The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery by Robert J.  Ray and Jack Remick

They argue that you should always start with your killer first. And one of the suggestions was interview your antagonist after he’s been caught.

So I took this idea a bit farther.

What if, when you got stuck on something, you stopped and did a quick interview? What if you didn’t just think of interviewing the antagonist? What if you looked at anything and everything? Like location.

hells kitchenLocation:

Me : “Hey, Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Sup bro.”

“Ah, yeah, listen, I don’t get you. Can you tell me something about yourself?”

“I ain’t what I used to be. Got the name from long ago. It kinda just stuck, you know.”

“So you’re not really all about kitchens or hell?”

“You want a punch in the face?”

“Not really, and at the risk of getting my nose mashed in, what do you smell like?”

“The fuck?”

“Seriously. What’s your most favourite smell?”

“Kabobs from the Afghan joint off of 9th. Red door. That smell of roasted meat and slightly burnt onions, it’s heaven.”

“So we’re going kitchen smells?”

“You want more? What about Wilo’s Flower Shop that’s at war with the hot dog vendor that parks his food cart right outside. Kinda hard to smell the roses, right?”

“Sure. I guess. Tell me about your favourite place.”

“Easy 39th st and 9th avenue.”

“What’s there?”

flea market“What’s not? It’s the world’s biggest flea market. Everything’s there. Reminds me of the old days when I was really called Hell’s Kitchen and not Clinton or Midtown West.”

“So you hate what people call you now?”

“Wouldn’t you? I got a proud heritage, you know. I been here a while and now, all of a sudden, people don’t call me by name, like there was something wrong with me, like they don’t love me no more.”

(This goes on for far too long so let me cut to the chase.)

However, by doing this I had several revelations.

First, I may need to see a psychiatrist.

Second, great writers make location a character and by chatting with Mr Kitchen, I began the thought process that lead me deeper into that part of NY.

Lastly, Hell’s Kitchen, AKA Clinton, seems a bit unsure of himself and yes, he’s a he. He’s also a bit of a jerk, and kind of unforgiving, you know, but he wants to avoid the future. Maybe he’s fighting against it in his own way.

So, could I use all this in a story?

You bet. I found that by talking to my city, I began to think about it on a whole new way. Not only did I find more intersesting places, but if you think about a place having a personality, then I would think the lights wouldn’t always work cuz the city’s a little pissed off. Or the sewer line constantly breaks. Or buildings have odd cracks.

I get this may not work for sane people, but hey, if you’re stuck, go interview someone or something. The hero’s car. The Antagonist’s mother. The dog who loves to poo on the victim’s lawn. The mail carrier who delivers mail.

Whatever.

It’s just a different way of getting a new way to look at something and maybe that look will inspire you to get bum back into chair and write.

Whadda think? Am I crazy?

Is productivity only measured in words?

Karalee’s Post #93

siwc2014For the next four days our 5Writer member Silk will be attending the Surrey International Writer’s Convention for her annual mixing with authors, agents and fellow writers. This year Silk has a bent for learning more about publishing and social media as well as attending lectures on the craft of writing . And of course, much information is exchanged among the attendees after hours in the bar and at dinner.

Joe will join her on Friday to do much of the same and  I’m sure they will fill us in on their experiences next week.

In the meantime I will encourage them to tweet #surrey2014 about exciting news or such and I may join them for a drink one evening. The conference will be exciting and tweets are already rolling:

Hallie siwc2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

sean cranbury siwc1

 

 

 

 

 

 

kc dyer siwc2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Cranbury, author and presenter has shared his work re social media if you want to check it out.

I’m not attending as I’ve dedicated my time and funds to the Writer’s Digest course I’m taking: 12 Weeks to a First Draft. That brings me to a quick discussion on productivity.

 

 According to the MW dictionary, the word PRODUCTIVE means:

: doing or achieving a lot : working hard and getting good results

: producing or able to produce something especially in large amounts

: causing or resulting in something

 

To me writers inevitably measure their productivity in their word count. Is productivity only measured in words?

Undoubtedly that is what matters in the finale since words are what our end product is. But before The End is achieved, there is so much behind the scenes work going on before, during and after our first and subsequent drafts until the book is ready for publishing.

My course has me looking at many aspects that go into making a great story. It’s not simple characters, settings and plots, but rather layers of depth that create a complex story with compelling characters and plot lines. That means a lot of time spent on ‘What if’s’ and looking (deconstructing) other books to see how other authors achieved their goals for an unforgettable story.

This week my mind-mapping  has continued and expanded to include sub-plots and how my protagonist and antagonist can become more emotionally complex, which also makes the main plot more complicated too.

I am having LOTS OF FUN and making great progress in my story. To me I have been very productive this week, albeit much of my work hasn’t directly added to my word count. It’s work that is very important, the backstage work that Silk talked about in her last post. This has to be mastered too in this craft of writing that we have chosen to do.

So this week my productivity has been:

  • most of my mind-mapping has been completed
  • character development, setting and plot lines are being layered in
  • Word count: words cut 760; words added 1600; total in first draft 2500
  • Hours in my office: 30
  • Times I journaled my progress: 0. I suck at this and need to follow-through even if only to see if it helps. I won’t know if I don’t try it.
  • Pies eaten: 1/4 pumpkin. My favorite and there’s so many pumpkins right now….
  • episodes of Orange is the New Black watched: 0

If anyone is preparing for NaNoMo and want good advice, read Jami Gold’s blog on this topic. She talks about tracking two types of  arcs: a story/plot arc and a character/emotion arc. I found this blog also helpful in developing my own story and not only for the one month go-for-it for NaNoMo.

Happy writing!

Déja vu all over again

fresh-perspective

Silk’s Post #103 — I love new beginnings. For some people, the year begins on January 1. Others are in tune with Spring as a time of rebirth. I was a Halloween baby, so for me the year has always started with autumn. It’s a new cycle and we’re on the start line once again.

Our 5Writers mini-retreat in Vancouver last week was a perfectly timed re-start for me. If you’ve ever belonged to a writers group – or any kind of small-scale, informal professional circle – you’ll know how this kind of support and encouragement kindles new enthusiasm for your work and kicks your energy up a notch.

And there’s nothing like a new challenge to wake up the competitive spirit. As a group, we have just embraced an ambitious common goal to write and self-publish five new books. If “competitive” seems like an inapt word to describe our cooperative efforts, it’s used deliberately. As unpublished authors, we’re a bit like a team that’s training together. We egg each other on. Put any five people on the same track – whether they’re running or writing – and the natural competitive human spirit turns it into a race. At the same time, we have an unwritten rule, born of our mutual respect and loyalty: Leave No Writer Behind. So it’s a genteel “race” of 5 cooperative competitors designed to produce 5 winners.

Over the next months, this blog will be sharing our brave new journey. It’s less brash than our original 5Writers challenge to write 5 novels in 5 months two years ago. In 2012 we set out at a furious gallop, hell bent for leather. Yee-haw! It was a terrific exercise and we learned a lot from it – about writing, and about ourselves.

I’m one of the two who didn’t finish the novel I started for that challenge. I may finish it one day because I love the characters and I think it has potential, but it’s a book that was conceived to fit that 5Writers challenge. It’s not the book I absolutely must write – at least not right now.

This new challenge is different. I like to think we’ve matured together as writers. Life has thrown us all many changes over the past couple of years. Our nice comfy schedule of meeting once a month or so for critiques is out the window, with two of the five now spending winters in the desert, three going through house moves in the last year, and one taking up Dad duties with his wonderful new family.

We’re all very aware of life’s ticking clock. It’s time to get more serious about writing – and publishing. Even if that means doing it for ourselves. No Cinderella stories have been forthcoming – what a surprise! So we’re not waiting for someone to knock on the door with a glass slipper in hand. But I think we’ve become realists about what we can accomplish as indie writers, and how much work and time we will need to (and are able to) put into it.

Here’s the box score from our lively review last Friday of our 5 book concepts:

  • 5Writers who had completed a full synopsis for review: 1
  • 5Writers who completely switched what book they’re planning to write after review: 2
  • 5Writers who are contemplating major changes to characters after review: 1
  • 5Writers who are now at work on new synopses: 4
  • Fabulous Thai dinners consumed during retreat: 1
  • Fabulous fellow bloggers who joined us for said dinner: 2 (Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland, the first time most of us had met these superstars in person!)

Onward!

Helga and super supportive husband Emil

Helga and husband Emil

Don and Joe

Don and Joe

Paula and Silk

Paula and Silk

Karalee and Alison

Karalee and Alison

Alison and Don

Alison and Don

 

Basically, you have to write

Karalee’s Post #90

ecard3

 

Our writing group is busy preparing for our fall two day retreat meeting starting tomorrow. We do have a long to-do list and it does have a lot to do with writing fiction.

 

On the other hand, we need to stay focused in order to make sure the list doesn’t remain in the to-do category.

ecard1

 

I’ve recently gone back to the basics in outlining a new manuscript and already feel a bit stuck.

 

 

If you believe in karma, meant-to-be concepts or in sheer luck, it does happen at times.

I follow a blog by C.S. Lakin called Live Write Thrive and she sent a title today called ‘Ramping Tension to the Max in Your Novel’. Now I don’t know if you experience this phenomenon, but when I’m stuck, or on the verge of understanding a concept, or need to learn about something in particular, often the solution arises from unexpected places. Sometimes it is downright eerie, but maybe every so often my stars align or something.

So when Live Write Thrive popped up in my inbox today it must have been meant to be. Not only does it address the topic of tension, and the concept suddenly became clearer to me, she also gave a her checklist at the end of the blog to go through in designing and writing your novel.

All in one place! My lucky day, but then, I was ready to delve into the whole topic and much deeper than before as my learning continues.

Her checklists are as follows and each are definitely worth a close read:

  • concept with a kicker
  • protagonist with a goal
  • conflict with high stakes
  • theme with a heart
  • plots and subplots in a string of scenes
  • secondary characters with their own needs
  • setting with a purpose

ecard2

I’ve discovered that learning about writing also teaches yourself much about, well, yourself. Me, I have a whole book in my head at once, but have difficulty talking it through out loud as well as having my story flow like a movie on the page.

 

So thank-you this week C.S. Lakin, I will definitely work through your checklists!

Last week I touched on the release of Kindle Unlimited. This week in the blog Build Book Buzz  readers are encouraged that when they download with Kindle Unlimited to read 10% of each book. Why? If they don’t then the author doesn’t get paid.

Just another little point for us aspiring authors to understand in the self-publishing world.

Happy writing!

 

Playing the ‘what if?’ game

brainstorm

Joe’s Post #108 — One thing I love to do as a writer is brainstorm. And eat donuts. But since writing about donuts appeals to only a few people, let me talk about brainstorming for a bit. Again.

After reading all my 5/5/5 writers, I went through their posts, mining ideas from their thoughts and observation. I wondered how I could use them in my own stories. Not that I want to steal their ideas, no, I want to take some of their experiences and turn them around a bit.

sheriffLet’s look at Silk’s post. Having a character without internet in today’s modern times creates some huge challenges. Romantic challenges. What if a character had just got a text that said, “If you still think we have a chance, meet me at-” and the text goes out. What wonderful complications would be created? Or a criminal case where your character had to get something faxed to her that would prove that the villain was actually the villain and not just the handsome sheriff who everyone loved?

Or what if someone simply tries to go a day without the internet? Or a week? Or a year? What great complications would arise? What if…?

And that’s how I love to create stories. What if.

Austria apartmentWhat if there was more to Karalee’s hay stacks than just stacks of hay? What if they were really stacked that way for a very dark reason, one none of the locals would ever talk about, one linked to the disappearances of a pair of UN workers last week?

Or what if they look like penises for a reason that’s not all sick and twisted? Personally, I can’t think of one, but others might have an idea.

Or what if, after holding your grandson in your arms for the first time, he goes missing? I mean, hey, you wouldn’t be some buff Vin Diesel guy out to find a child, you’d be older, perhaps a little out of shape, perhaps completely unskilled in detective work, perhaps with a bum leg, but what would you do to get that child back?

Or what if you always wanted that feeling and took a child?

I think it’s a vital part of the story-telling process even if you never even write that story. Think of it as exercise for the brain. Or practice for when you are actually writing a story.

For me, by constantly looking at something a little sideways and playing the ‘what-if’ game, I hope that when it comes to writing my own story, those cool twists and turns will make my readers think, “man, he’s a nutjob”, or “I never saw that coming.”

Honestly, I’d be happy with either of those thoughts.

But I do wonder what other writers do to exercise their brains? Does everyone play the ‘what if’ game? Or am I a nutjob?

The thrill of outlining – part 3

Karalee’s Post #65

outlining courseMy outlining course through Writer’s Digest University finished this week and I am well on the way to having a story I’m excited to spend the next few months writing. I I still want to do more characterization, especially of my antagonist. I also want to up the stakes in a few places for both my antagonist and protagonist and add them into my outline.

The outlining course began with my basic story idea, then moved to a premise sentence that introduced my story situation, the protagonist and antagonist, and the major objective. This process automatically encouraged my brainstorming process, all those ‘what if’s’ that I love (and I think most writers do) that push my creative spirit in any and all directions, some of which are outlandish, crazy, weird, and that might just work if this and that happens….. During this creative time, this course encouraged me to also try to think about my theme as well as character motives and conflicts. Looking back, this was something I hadn’t concentrated on as much before, and it was very helpful in coming up with bigger moments  with more at stake than I may have otherwise done. (Part 1)

Part 2 was exploring one’s characters and settings. All major characters need to be explored in depth. Whether you make a formal outline or not, writers need to know their characters as though they are “real” family, friends, or enemies. We need to know why they do what they do. This means, what has happened in their lives to make them think and act the way they do? This process is extensive and time consuming, but also a great time saver when it comes to writing scenes. For me,knowing my characters also adds to the pleasure of being “in my character’s head” while I am writing.

Settings must also seem real and knowing and feeling a country or a city takes more understanding than an office, kitchen or bedroom. Helga’s last post explores this topic well.

So what is left for Part 3?

outline endThis is where you take all the brainstorming ideas, the characters and settings and story lines, and organize them into possible scenes while still jotting down other ideas that may come to mind as you do this. I think of this like sorting “dots” into the picture that will come to light once they are all connected. This is the Extended Outline and depending on your writing style, it may be quite extensive to include ideas that both work or don’t seem to, or merely simple one-liners as a reminder for when you write the scene later.

At this point all your brainstorming ideas are recorded in whatever detail works for you. Most of us don’t want to trash any ideas as there could be gold to be mined later if we are stuck, but it may be quite onerous to wade through everything during your story writing. To help streamline the process, it is helpful to sort through everything at this point (especially since it is fresh) to make an Abbreviated Outline that is easy to follow as you write your scenes.

For me, this outlining process has been very helpful and definitely worth my time and effort. I am starting out eager to write my story with a much better feel for my story and theme, my characters and settings, and their conflicts and growth.

I don’t feel that my creative forces have been stifled at all since I’m keeping an open mind to the probability that some characters may try and take over and others may come on stage that haven’t shown themselves yet. I will let them do what they feel they need to, but since I have a good idea of where my story needs to go, if characters go too far in an unworkable directions, not too much time and effort will be given to them.

Happy writing!

Group dynamics

Karalee’s Post #64

This Friday our group is coming together loaded with ideas and outlines and ready to brainstorm. Coffee will flow almost as fast as our mouths, and lunch provided by Helga (thank-you!!!) will be quick so we can continue with our meeting.

It’s no small feat to get five people together to review five entire outlines of each one of our books, or at least a multitude of thoughts about a book idea in some organized fashion. We haven’t seen each other since last fall either, so we have some catch-up chatting time to fit in too. 

In effect in all probability the timer will have to come out again.

We’re not a group of down-to-the-last-second and you’re cut off kiddo, and then on to the next writer, but we are respectful of each other and are cognizant of everyone having their equal time on stage.

And what a stage it will be. It’s like being invited to a large party where you only know four people yet you anticipate being introduced to all the others and feel compelled to remember their names.

And no, name tags won’t help.

Some of the guests will be nasty people that you can spot a mile away and others that are so sneaky you think they are okay, but you have no idea what their motives are so you don’t really trust them. Others will be genuinely nice and some not-so-nice, but you put up with them because you like their friends or family. Then there are the strong-willed people that want to be in the spotlight and take over the show and you feel compelled to stand up to them and fight for your own space.

Now those ones need to have a timer on them too.

If we had a whole weekend wouldn’t it be fun to let our characters loose to mingle and see what story they come up with? We could add stress and conflict by not providing coffee, not allowing them to sleep, playing the music loud, burning the popcorn, throwing in a few weapons, turning the heat up high and locking the doors.

Of course we would call in the cops when chaos breaks out.

What fun we could have!

Happy writing!

Revving up to write

Karalee’s Post #63

I’m not writing Part 3 on outlining this week as I’m still in the process of working through the process, so it may be another week or two before I get there.

On the other hand my story is quite consistently in my thoughts now as I continue developing my characters and more plot points come to mind. To me this is what revving up to write feels like. I start to live and breathe my characters and their world becomes part of my world. My mind buzzes and  ‘what if’s’ are still churning away.

This is my feeling of being a writer.

All I can say is thank goodness the human brain can keep the real and fictitious worlds alive and separate at the same time, otherwise writers would have a class of mental illness all to their own!

Characterization and scene building is well underway for me and the next layer to add is setting. I know the big locations of where my story takes place in general, but all week  I’ve been toying with what my protagonist’s and antagonist’s place should look like, where they sleep, eat, dine, who their neighbors are, the weather, the seasons, etc.

I am also envisioning my final climatic scene and if I want it to take place at my protagonist’s or my antagonist’s workplace. Whichever one, I also need to consider that the setting must challenge my protagonist to rise up and meet one of her fears head on. 

It is becoming clearer to me that outlining is crucial in establishing, or at least making me consider, not only where my characters live, but also what the setting needs to provide in order to show who my characters are as well as challenge them in some way.

Nothing solid has come to mind yet. I often find that sleeping on it a couple of nights helps and keeping my mind open during the day as I research and think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may want to check out this site: Images for weird houses. It’s good for a few laughs and who knows, it may jump start some ideas.

Happy writing!

The thrill of outlining – part 2

Karalee’s Post #62

I haven’t told my fellow 5Writers often enough that they are an inspiration to me, that they help me keep my life in perspective as they share their perspectives, and how important our group’s encouragement and sharing of information is a powerful source of positive energy that helps to keep me on my writing journey.

So, thank-you fellow 5Writers!

This blog came to be because over a year ago our group came to the conclusion that monthly critique meetings weren’t servicing our goals the way we had intended. Submitting 7500 words each was still a significant amount of critiquing for everyone, but was jerky progress at best in completing our individual novels in good time. For that reason we decided to challenge ourselves to work toward larger goals and come together as a group less frequently. Our blog was born as a surrogate meeting place and a way to share with our followers how our group works together.

All I can say is thank goodness for social media. As writers we hear that it is so important to be connected nowadays in order to market ourselves, but I feel it is also a very important medium to allow individual groups to stay connected. Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely occupation.

At present our goal is to come together this month and share our outlines for our next manuscript. To that end, I will continue my blog on that topic.

Outlining Part 2. The Middle.

outlining middlePart 1 addressed the overall story premise and jotting down four or five big moments in the plot line. If you really don’t write anything down you can keep all the information in your head instead, although I still consider this as a form of outlining as well. Actually, it’s a great exercise for the brain too and can possibly deter Alzheimer’s, but my brain doesn’t hold information for me like that.

I need to record things in order to remember details that must be consistent throughout my story. Brainstorming ideas can come from all directions and connect my characters and settings in ways that I hadn’t considered before and I easily forget the paths if I don’t write them down and I’d rather not miss the opportunity to make a good story great.

I also need reminders in front of me regarding key factors in the story that help keep me focused. As my story develops what I will tack to my wall is:

  • my story premise
  • protagonist and antagonist motives and desires (often what a character wants to do but can’t at this moment)
  • goal of the story
  • conflicts – major and minor
  • theme

More than likely when you are thinking about your story premise and big moments you will also  be thinking about what type of characters will play out the action.

This brings us to the next part of outlining.

The Middle

Characterization

This section is also super creative. You get to conjure up your characters using your own life experiences as well as drawing from a plethora of references available. These range from watching movies & documentaries, news stories, books on character development, applying enneagrams or personality or psychological profiles, researching history and cultures, taking relevant courses, visit your settings and experience them, people watching, and talking to strangers, teachers, and colleagues, etc.

At the same time you develop your characters, the settings they grew up in, moved away to, and live in now will also be coming to light as they are part of what makes up your characters too. 

While you start to understand who your characters are and note down your ideas (or log them in your brain), your story line is also burbling away as you envision what your characters are doing or need to do. Scenes start to emerge more clearly, filling in holes between your major big moments.

Some of these big moments might also shift and change, which is the beauty of thinking through your story before wasting huge chunks of time writing something that doesn’t work.

For me, drawing a big bubble map at this point helps me with my timeline and who is where doing what to whom. You may use a notebook split into sections, a writing software or a simple word document. Pictures are helpful as well both for settings and characters.

During all of this exciting and creative thinking and exploring time, you may be asking yourself where to start your opening chapter. I know this is always a huge issue for me when I start a new manuscript. The inciting incident must be established, but it doesn’t have to be at the starting gate. A key event must also happen that pushes your protagonist onto a path of no return. Before this course I wasn’t aware of the two as separate entities as they had worked together for me.

  • The inciting event is something that happens that “changes the world” in your story.
  • the key event brings the protagonist through to the “new world.”
  • the two can be the same event or separate. For example, if they are separate, the inciting event could be a major fire that destroys a neighborhood while the key event could be what brings your protagonist on scene, such as the discovery of an underground bunker full of stolen paintings. And of course, the antagonist will become involved as well through the stolen paintings in some way.

Your mind will keep throwing out ideas from all directions so I recommend to keep noting them down to be sorted at a later time.

Now back to characterization.

Your character’s history is really what has made him/her the person he/she is today. This means you need to know your character’s life over and above the details of DOB, physical characteristics, and where her/she was born and lived.

The rest is what is called backstory and is what makes your characters do interesting things for interesting reasons. It is through backstory that you discover your characters’ motivations, desires, internal conflicts, etc.

Backstory includes:

  • family, friends, colleagues, lovers – and how they have influenced your characters. What major incidents happened in your characters’ lives in childhood and onwards (good to note at milestone times) that shaped their motivations, desires, fears, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
  • time in history – present, past, future (understand the setting)
  • cultural influences. For example, understanding the culture is a good jumping point to go against the norm in a believable way and add conflict.
  • present profession and jobs leading up to what the characters do now
  • hobbies/interests
  • travel experiences
  • life-altering experiences – sickness, traumas, abuses, extreme weather events, but also acts of kindness, etc. too

The overall purpose of backstory is:

  • to weave in connection points in order for your reader to relate to your characters in some way either positively or negatively. It allows readers to understand where your character is coming from (motives, desires, fears, strengths) when he/she takes action, whether the action is as expected or unexpected. Here the cliche “show don’t tell” is helpful and information often can be given through dialogue rather than through narrative dumping. (this has been a hard lesson for me to learn.)
  • a source of inner conflict in your story
  • understand your characters arcs and how they can change in a believable way in your story

outline novel bookIn her book Outlining you Novel Map Your Way to Success, KM Weiland suggests a couple of ways to develop your characters:

  1. Start at the inciting event and work backwards to answer why your protagonist and antagonist would be affected and why will they do what they do in your story?
  2. Interview your character and ask oodles of questions such as those given in her book and her free online book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

Her website is helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/resourses/free-e-book.

Have fun developing interesting and memorable characters.

Happy outlining!