Fiction authors: Learn how to construct backstories for your characters and use them throughout your novel to build and complete the character arc.
I read this book while I was working on the scene outline for my second novel. I was having trouble, and I realized it was because I didn’t know my characters’ backstories as well as I thought I did. After I took the time to create better backstories, the rest of the writing process was much easier.
Carol Alwood’s book is whimsically illustrated and easy to read. It includes lots of charts, worksheets and exercises that guide you in building your characters’ backstories in a systematic way.
The functional structure of the book adds to its usefulness. Each chapter tells you what it’s going to cover, then covers it, then includes summaries that help you focus on what was important so you can keep moving forward.
Alwood explains that there are five types of backstories. Understanding this helps you create a complete, realistic backstory for your characters that you can use to further the story of your novel.
It’s important to know your character’s backstory before you construct the character. Alwood explains: “…if you don’t understand a character’s focused backstory before you write, you might not choose the best character traits, habits and personalities for your story.”
Beyond how to develop and then use a backstory, Alwood has some good advice regarding plot and subplots, motivation, and other important novel-writing elements.
While intended as a tool for writers, this book could also serve as a guide for some serious self-reflection
A few of the wonderful nuggets you’ll find throughout Focused Backstory:
Understand the difference between giving the reader clues about the character’s backstory and details about the character’s past. Alwood writes: “The difference between clues and details are clues make the read wonder about the main character. … Details are pieces of what happened in the past.”
Some people aren’t conscious of the pain they feel; others are all too aware of it. Characters behave differently if they’re aware of the pain, so you need to know if your character is aware of the pain. Alwood writes: “Some characters hide from the pain until they must face it while others have known they were in pain all along.”
Another piece of excellent advice: “When you write about a character who needs to change, include another character who loves them despite their dysfunction. If you provide the unconditional love for a character, the reader may love them too.”
Whether you’re an aspiring or experienced fiction writer, you’ll find Focused Backstory worth the read.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are mine.
About the Book
Book: Focused Backstory
Author: Carol Alwood
Genre: Non-fiction, writing resource
Release Date: June 26, 2019
Click here to get your copy.
About the Author
More from Carol
Focused Backstory resulted from a personal quest to please industry critics who suggested I keep character history out of the first pages of my novels. My initial questions to this advice were: What? Why? I searched for resources to figure out how to write a more powerful beginning without relying on the past but found little help. On a mission to find answers, I studied popular books, television and movies to abstract what made stories work and — boom! I found it! We can break down backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story without compromising artistry. This book provides definitions, examples, worksheets, templates, and comics to help writers study the art of using powerful character histories to keep readers turning pages. I’m so excited to offer this resource and hope it will empower your writing as it has mine.
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To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
She the author of the novel Choices (A Joyful Cup Story) as well as the nonfiction books Words to Work By: 31 devotions for the workplace based on the Book of Proverbs and Finding Joy in the Morning: You can make it through the night. She is also the co-creator of several coloring books for adults.