Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys
Carol Alwood

Fiction authors: Learn how to construct backstories for your characters and use them throughout your novel to build and complete the character arc.

Focused Backstory by Carol Alwood (cover)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

Learn how to write characters readers will love.
Has an industry professional told you not to dump character history at the beginning of your story? If so, you aren’t alone.
But what’s the solution to this common advice? Most writers take the time to design interesting characters with troubled pasts. They long for readers to care about the characters’ lives. However, the sad truth is on page one, readers don’t care—yet. That’s why industry gurus tell writers to stop overusing character history, also called backstory, at the beginning of stories.
Have you ever wondered… How to use backstory correctly? What are the ways other writers successfully incorporate backstory into their work? Do tools exist to help writers better plan stories so the backstory isn’t such a problem? In Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, you’ll find answers to these questions and more.
You’ll learn how to avoid the dreaded info-dump and instead, harness curiosity so readers keep turning pages. This resource breaks down focused backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story no matter what genre or length. Worksheets, tables, questionnaires, and templates will help you plan an engaging story with deep characters. Examples from popular stories will help you understand this method.
You’ll learn how to
• design a character around a troubled past.
• create additional characters around the main character.
• weave interesting sub-plots within a characters’ journey toward healing.
• design proper obstacles which interfere with characters’ goals.
• guide readers’ emotions so they have a satisfying reading experience.
No matter what kind of writer you are, if you take the time to analyze the use of backstory, it will enhance your style. Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys is the missing gadget in your writing tool kit.
Click here to get your copy.

About the Author

Carol AlwoodCarol Alwood has an unending passion for fiction, and she can’t think of a better way to spend her life than writing books for young adults and teaching about techniques she has learned along the way. With a Master of Education, experience as a content editor, and over a decade of establishing and working with critique groups, she is an excellent resource. An award-winning author, Carol finds joy in helping writers find the right tools to plan, draft and revise their novels so they can achieve excellence in storytelling.

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.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 28
Holly Jo Morris, December 28
janicesbookreviews, December 29
CarpeDiem, December 29
Jacquelyn Lynn, December 29
For the Love of Literature, December 30
Mary Hake, December 30
Blogging With Carol, December 31
All-of-a-kind Mom, December 31
Genesis 5020, January 1
April Hayman, Author, January 1
Pause for Tales, January 1
Through the Fire Blogs, January 2
A Modern Day Fairy Tale, January 2
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 3
Emily Yager, January 3
Remembrancy, January 4
Stephanie’s Life of Determination, January 4
A Reader’s Brain, January 5
Spoken from the Heart, January 5
Sara Jane Jacobs, January 5
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 6
Godly Book Reviews, January 6
Blossoms and Blessings, January 7
With a Joyful Noise, January 7
Inklings and notions, January 8
Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, January 8
A Diva’s Heart, January 8
Artistic Nobody, January 9
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 9
Hebrews 12 Endurance, January 9
Texas Book-aholic, January 10
Stories By Gina, January 10


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.


Jacquelyn Lynn
Follow me