Jacob Hicks is the hero of my new series, and as such he needs to be an interesting character, who is able to carry the story through to its end. Even though the readers don’t actually need to like him (although I hope they do), Jacob has to be interesting and worth rooting for. And this won’t work without giving him a life of his own, almost as if he actually has lived the full 52 years of his life.
The creation of this virtual life is called backstory and writers spent a lot of time creating it and making it as believable and real as possible. The ironic thing is that in a way, the readers never sets eyes on it.
I can hear you think, Why waste so much time creating something that never makes it into the book? The answer is that it’s not a waste of time, but a chance for the writer to create a well-rounded, interesting character.
Backstory is basically the part of the hero’s life before the books starts. This life has shaped who he is. His morals and believes, the way he reacts in certain situations, the way he interacts with other people. Just like we do every day of our lives.
But of course Jacob hasn’t really lived his life. He’s just a made-up character that sprouted from my imagination, so it’s up to me, the writer, to create that life by inventing his backstory.
Other than making Jacob interesting, there is another important reason for backstory.
To have a remotely readable and interesting story, the hero always needs to learn something during the story. Ideally the hero is ‘broken’ and needs to be ‘repaired’. For instance, the hero can have certain phobias or insecurities that stop him facing and beating the bad guy. But as he is the hero in the story, he has no choice but to go through some personal growth, come to terms with his own weaknesses, in order for the book to have a happy end.
Phobias and insecurities might stem from things that happened to the hero in the past, which is why backstory is once more important.
I have written a lot of backstory in the past two months. At times it was easy, other times hard, but in general it has been fun. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I’m coming to the end of it, mostly as it means I get closer to actually writing my book!
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