Can You Explore A Character’s Backstory Too Much?

I recently posted this question on facebook and got a resounding…  YES!! The majority has spoken. Okay, it was only 3 people who replied however, I admire and respect their opinions and they all said YES! ! !
So, I’m going to give you a little back story myself…and the reason I was pondering this question at all. It seems when I get started with a character, once I’ve outlined I know where they’re going and we’ve started the journey I’ve planned, they’ll tell me something fascinating about something they’ve done with/for someone else they know. Its only a line or two in their story. Its only something that appears maybe once or twice but its there… they’ve inticed me… now I want to explore it more.
I’ll give you an example, last year when I begun a new work in progress. My male lead had given up his career and moved LA to rescue his sister from an abusive husband. She was his motivation for being in LA, working an unfulfilling job and having a life that sucked. His sister.  And of course her life was now wonderful, she’d achieved her happy ever after. He’d fulfilled his purposed for being there. That was it for this part of his backstory. Its relevance? the rest of the plot play out at her wedding.
This January, I sat down and really thought about my work in progress, about about the main characters and the web of threads that had developed. There’s not one, not two, but half a dozen stories to tell and these are just the characters I’ve found fascinating.
So going back to this sister … how did she get out of that bad marriage? how did she find her way to happy ever after? that can’t have been an easy path for her to walk. So along comes a new love interest who of course had to have a massive conflict with her situation… another back story for me to explore and what do I find? Another half a dozen fascinating characters each with their own stories to tell.

The thing is … when I went to the source of his conflict and I wrote about the source of his pain. I learnt so much about who he is and why he the person he is now that I wonder…

If your eyes capture every detail anyway and it’s your brain that ignores the images it doesn’t need is it possible for it work that way in writing too? Is it a bad thing to delve deeper your characters world with them? 

Erin


Posts you may have missed:


Novel Extract – Tainted LoveJune 2012


Never Say Never – June 2012


Your Character vs Your Genre  – Jun 2012





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