Monday, May 9, 2016

Rachael Thomas & Backstory

Please welcome Rachael Thomas back to the blog today!
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Digging Deep Into Your Characters Backstory.

One of the first things to ask yourself when creating your characters is what’s their backstory? What happened to them before they arrived on your page? You need to know all there is to know about them in as much detail as you can. Why? Your character’s past will have shaped the person they are now as you begin to write. It will determine how they react to situation that will arise within your story and also the person they will be as you write the final chapter.

Each and every one of us will have experienced situations through our lives which have changed who we are and it needs to be the same for your characters. These can be good or bad experiences, but both will have an effect on your character.

Maybe your character is afraid of heights, the dark or thunder storms. What you need to know as the writer and creator of that character is, why? You need to delve deep into their past and find out everything. Once you are armed with this information you know exactly how your character will react when confronted with going to the top of one of the city’s tallest buildings, or being lost in the woods on a dark night when not even the moon is shining. By knowing every little detail about that past experience your character will react in a way that is real and convincing to the reader. They will come alive on the page.

As your character progresses through your story he or she will come up against things which challenge them. They will face fears which will have held them back and this in turn will change them, allowing them to grow and change as they progress through the story, so that by the end they have faced and conquered fears and become a stronger, better person.

It will be the same with good events in their lives. Your character may associate certain places with good memories or people they’ve loved or shared happy times with. Events in your story which threaten such memories, people or places they associate with happy times, it will give your character room to grow and show the reader who they are now.

So, you have your hero and heroine, you’ve named them, but how do you find out all this information to create their backstory?

For me it is a gradual process and one I do in the planning stage of my books. I have sheets with questions that are designed to create more questions and yet more questions. Gradually their past begins to show itself. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but in order to create real and believable characters you must know who they were before they appeared on your page.

However, it is important to remember the backstory isn’t the main story. It mustn’t be allowed to overpower the story you want to write. Neither must it be dumped on the reader in big doses. It should be weaved into the main story, giving the reader tantalising insights into what made the characters they are now.

Happy Writing!
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The Sheikh’s Last Mistress Promoted to Princess! 

Destiny Richards knows she is playing with fire when she accepts charismatic Sheikh Zafir Al Asmari's job offer, but it seems like a fair price to pay to start her life over again. Until the temperature reaches the boiling point and Destiny finds herself spending one out-of-this-world night with the sheikh!  When powerful Zafir seduces English rose Destiny, he never anticipates she'll hold the title of his Last Mistress. But their scorching affair has shocking repercussions. Now, before their nine months are up, Zafir must convince Destiny to make their arrangement more permanent!

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The Sheikh's Last Mistress by Rachael Thomas

The Sheikh's Last Mistress

by Rachael Thomas

Giveaway ends May 31, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Thanks Rachael!
The first novel I wrote had a prologue AND at least twenty pages of backstory before the story finally started!! Boy, I've learned a lot since then!

How about you? Any more hints for backstory? Any horror stories like mine?

45 comments:

  1. Great take on a very tricky element in books! Always good to know our character backstory, even if we don't use most of it!

    I may trickle out a couple of driblets in dialogue, but we have to be very careful not to create the old "As you know, Sam...." issue when doing so.

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    1. I used a lot of that "As you know" trick way back when I started :)

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    2. I agree Elizabeth! Thanks for stopping by. I was guilty of doing the same when I started too Jemi.

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  2. I usually plan out the characters before anything else, so I do a lot of work on backstory, plus the characters' goals.

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    1. I tend to let the characters walk around in my head before taking to the stage :)

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    2. I think that's the best way for me too Alex. By the time they appear on my first page I know lots about them.

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  3. From a reader's point of view, the characters' backstory is always good to know. It helps us understand the characters' actions more. Congrats on your release, Rachel.

    Hi, Jemi!

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    1. Hi! I agree - it's always good to understand the motivation behind the action!

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    2. It certainly is Mason. If the author doesn't know their characters really well, there's no way the reader ever will. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I don't plan things out enough and then end up having to work on the character development. I like the idea of thinking of the events in our character's lives that have shaped them just like we go through things that change us. Congrats on your book!

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    1. I agree Natalie - those events are often triggers!

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    2. Thanks Natalie for the congrats.I also know the pain of not having got to know the characters well enough at the beginning.

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  5. we do love them good backstories

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  6. Backstory is what shapes a character. We're all the sum of our own experiences.

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    1. We are - and it's always interesting to see what events have the most impact!

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  7. I'm like Alex - I learn a lot about my characters before I start writing. Then I learn more!

    Hi, Jemi!

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    1. There's always more to learn! :)

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    2. There's always more to learn from them. Thanks Carol!

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  8. Back story is so important in all my books. It makes my protagonists the people they are with all their faults and insecurities. Sometimes I know the backstory before I know the current one.

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    1. Me too! It's often the trauma that's shaped the characters that comes to me first.

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    2. I find exactly the same Susan!

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  9. I approach my characters like I would getting to know real people, so often I discover their histories as the story progresses. :-)

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    1. I like that! Learn as we go :)

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    2. I often find I have to stop and ask more questions as I write too. After all, you don't know everything about a person the first time you meet them. Thanks Misha!

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  10. I'm in the Misha camp. And I'm always asking about what would make a person feel, act, think this way? Sometimes the answer comes from the news. Sometimes it comes from people-watching, and sometimes it comes from me. (Don't tell because then people will say I write autobiography.)

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    1. LOL - we won't - we know what you mean!! :)

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  11. Great tips, Rachael. Congratulations on the release of your book!

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  12. Thanks for all these great advice, Rachael!

    Hi Jemi!

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  13. Awesome advice! Some of the best advice I ever heard about writing characters is to sit down and have them tell you first person about themselves--where they live, who their family is, why they like or dislike things. It not only develops their voice, but your understanding of them.

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    1. I love it when they talk like that Crystal!

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    2. It is so much fun to eavesdrop on them :)

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  14. Hi Jemi and Rachael,

    What a most interesting, enlightening post. My characters talk to me. Actually, I become the character, even if the character may well be an inanimate object.

    Of course and to keep the writing mind truly open, I'm actually a created character by a well-known writing dog....

    All the best and pawesome, um, awesome advice.

    Gary :)

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    1. Great comment Gary! Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. Penny, you're sharing secrets!! :)

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  15. Great and helpful post! I'm a planner, but I still discover backstory as I write, especially in my first draft. Thank you, Rachael and Jemi! :)

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    1. I love those discoveries as you go along!

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  16. This is such great advice. I definitely think it is important to plan your characters and get to know them in great detail. Then it is easier to help your reader get to know them. :)
    ~Jess

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