Thursday, December 8, 2011

Know Your Character's Backstory

I consider it a huge compliment when people talk about my heroine Brea from my new book series California Girl Chronicles as if she's a real person. As a writer, this means mission accomplished. When you write a fully realized and well developed character, these figments of your imagination take a three dimensional quality. You hear their voices and feel their emotions. You understand them. You root for them. And most importantly you care what happens to them. Creating a well developed character is a craft, takes time and patience, and means you have thought out the details of their lives, which is their backstory. I've had people ask me about Brea's backstory and her family. The reason I didn't explore Brea's personal family life in the book is that to completely go there would have cast a darker light on an upbeat, escapist book, which is not what the book was intended to do. You have to have a demon or two in your closet to fall for such a bad boy (Drew) and make, or as one person suggested "indulge," in some of Brea's choices. As the writer, though, I do know her back story. Brea was raised in an uptight religious environment, which she does allude to about her Protestant parents. In being taught conservative morality and the points of sin, she rebelled as a teenager and adopted a more spiritual, open philosophy, which doesn't mean she always abides by her own principles. I do have to point out she is only 22 in this story, which means she's young and immature. When we were discussing ideas of who to cast in the role, I said we couldn't choose an older actress because her misguided behavior doesn't stem from lack of brains, but from sheer inexperience and youth. Why do I, as the writer, need to know these things. It points to motivation. You should always understand and know what motivates your characters. Motivation directs behaviors and decisions the characters make. You should have this in your mind as you write them. And you should always know their backstories enough that when asked you would have the answer.

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