5 Tips on Writing a Good Character Backstory

5 Tips on Writing a Good Character Backstory

So last time I talked about writing a good short story right? In that, I mentioned that you should derive the characters from existing people. Now a lot of people have an interesting backstory. The backstory makes people who they are and it makes them relatable to some extent. Well, this time I am going to talk about the major step in creating a character and that is making a character’s backstory. Here are 5 tips on how to write a good backstory for a character that you make. 

Tip 1: Build a timeline


The first thing that you have to do is to make a timeline. What this means is that you have to note the key points in the life of a character that you want to highlight. The questions like “what happened that made him like this?”

“When did those events happen?”
“What effect did those events have on him/her?”
“How long did those events last?”

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Should be asked while making a timeline. Note that you do not have to include all of the life stories. Just including major events is enough. What this does is make it easier for you to relate and recall the emotions that are triggered in the present time of your character with the events of his/her past.

Tip 2 : Make the details relevant to the story


So you have made a timeline and have figured out what events have happened in his/her lifetime. Now it’s time to filter them. I know a lot of events have happened but there will be a time when some of them will have no impact or relevance to the story. 

For example, if the story is a rom-com and the character had a job where nothing related to romance happened, then remove that part while telling the backstory. It’s not that it didn’t happen. It’s just that it has nothing to do with the way your story is going. 

Tip 3: Let the character tell his/her backstory.


Okie now this is where most of us make mistakes. What we think of a character’s backstory is that all of it has to be verbal and that the writer has to give all of the info on the backstory. That is where we are wrong. We don’t have to tell it. The character can do it himself/herself. The way this can be done is by making another character notice some quirks of the character in focus. Let the story guide you and let the character tell it to him/herself in a conversation. Just be sure to make him/her tell it in short. Another way is the use of flashbacks. This is useful as it lets us write a small part of the backstory at a time. Eventually, the flashbacks will add up to make a good chunk of the backstory.

Tip 4: Make the character’s background based on a real life person


This is what was in my previous post about the short story as well but it was not explained well. What this means, in short, is that “take a real person’s childhood as an inspiration”. Let’s be honest, at this time, a lot of people are emo and edge lords. Some of them have interesting childhoods. Well, most of the emo and edge lords are social outcasts due to some reasons. That makes up for some good edgy character formation and you can use their childhood as a base and build your character from there following tip 1 and tip 2. If it is for the happy character, look into the childhood of the innocent people that you know. If it is for a disciplined character, look into the childhood of the people with strict parents. These make a pretty interesting background to start your backstory for the main character.

Tip 5: Use the backstory to show his/her drive


Well, this is a difficult one to do but it still is worth it. All you have to do is make the relevant backstory be an emotional drive for the characters’ current behavior. For example, in the anime “Mayo Chiki” Sakamachi Kinjiro has developed a “Gynophobia” (fear of women) because his mother was a wrestler and he followed her way. This meant that they used to test their new moves on him and as a result, he developed a nose bleeding syndrome when he came near a girl and became somewhat afraid of them. This backstory drives him to avoid girls.

Similarly in the series “Dexter” his mother was killed back when he was a baby, being left in a pool of blood and that traumatized him and developed his blood lust. Along with that it also made him emotionless as well. This bit of his backstory drives him to kill and seek for blood. 

The back story has affected their daily lives and as a result, affected the entire story. 

You can check out how to write a short story here