Why Back Story for Characters is a MUST

Learn how developing back story changes your writing forever!

Michelle Massie

3/5/20233 min read

It wasn’t until I unpublished my first book off Amazon and began the reworking phase I realized my characters had no back story. They had no real origin, no childhood that I knew of—they had just been plucked out of the air and tossed into my story. They were, essentially, flat characters. Is this why my book was so lame?

I tried something. I opened a blank page in Scrivener, and just started writing. I wrote a new, short story about how the Cristalli (the gem in my first book—super important!) came to be. Why it was such a mystery. (Trying to lay off the spoiler alerts here.)

And I absolutely loved it. A little prequel to my first story. Oh! Good idea, me! Anyway, it inspired me, and I ended up a journal entry for every one of my characters around that same time frame.

Love stories blossomed, hatred emerged, and secrets came to light. It was absolutely enthralling! And it made the reworking phase SO much better. I developed sub-plots and more conflict, and it opened doors for writing the second book I didn’t even know were there. Back story. Who knew?

Why am I telling you this? Because if you don’t know your character’s secrets or their childhood, you are writing a dull character. And dull characters drag a story down.

You have a great book idea sitting in front of you, and are ready to start, but have you truly thought about why it came to be? And not just why it started. But why IT CAME TO BE. The meat of the story.

Say you have a grumpy old man character. So, why is he grumpy? Has he always been grumpy? Or did something specific change his life forever? Did he lose his loved one? Did something tragic happen when he was a child that he could never let go of?

Even if your readers never read a line about why he is grumpy, it is so important to you, the author. It will change how this character thinks, and acts, and give him that little boost that you didn’t even know you could achieve.

It will give you so much more perspective on this character, and make him a deeper, more meaningful character, on a whole new level. There are endless questions you can ask yourself about your character, and even the dullest question can offer some perspective.

Not only that. When I am stuck in a novel, can’t figure out my next scene, or flat out just don’t feel like writing, I turn to a character journal.

Related Post: Why Writer’s block is a good thing

Character Journals have improved my writing tremendously. Because hey, I know everyone says I am supposed to write 1,000 words a day (ohh, headache) but do you ever have the day where you just don’t feel like writing?

(For me, that was today. Instead of a character journal, I wrote a blog about them, though.)

I want you to try this. The next time you sit at your computer, forcing yourself to write—which for me, inevitably leads to lame writing and redoing chapters—write a character journal instead!

Pick a day from their childhood. Just write. It is a fulfilling experience, and for me, I’ve even found great new storylines for prequels, sequels, and new stories altogether! My absolute favorite way to break writer’s block. I swear, each time I write a journal entry, my story gets deeper and better.

And more than that? They’re fun! It’s essentially just writing a short story. I’ve even thought of compiling them, maybe making a little freebie or giveaway to my readers. You know, hear your favorite characters deepest darkest secrets. You could make it a whole new publication!

Do you have any ideas for character journals? Do you ever use them in your writing? What is your favorite way to fill in backstory for your characters?

Let me know! I’m always on the lookout for ideas!

As always,

Happy Writing!


FREE Character Journal Prompts!
Click HERE!
FREE Beating Writer's Block Worksheet! Never Get Stuck In a Story Again!
Click HERE!

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