August 24, 2010
If you'll remember from last week, we talked about how to hint at backstory (events that occur previous to chapter one) within your story. Today we will take that same example and build on it to show the importance of *knowing* your character's backstory before you begin writing. It adds depth to your character/s. Layers. Think onion.
LAST WEEK: A woman who has endured abuse in the past at the hands of her spouse is sitting at a table as he rants and raves. Remember, on paper, the reader knows nothing of this woman or of this man. They don't even know that she has been abused in the past. Yet. What we are going to do is SHOW through her actions and reactions to her spouse that she has endured violence at the hands of her husband before.
Mary focused on the vein in Larry's forehead. The one that always swelled in direct proportion to the build of Larry's anger. She gripped the edges of the kitchen chair with her hands and dared not stare down at the rough wood boards of the table.
"Listen to me!" he snapped and pounded the table.
Her spine stiffened and she purposely blanked her expression. Fear swam in the back of her throat, an oily taste that worked her gag reflex.
Larry jammed his face up next to hers. "That's the problem, you never listen to me."
He grabbed her upper arms with all the strength of a construction worker.
Today we'll add to this. Let's take one aspect of the woman's backstory, her job, and tell me how what she does for a living is going to affect her actions and reactions to yet another one of her husband's tantrums.
1)How would the woman's job as CEO of a company affect her reaction?
2)How would she react if her job was that of a janitor?
3)Same scenario, but she is a scientist?
4)What if she is unemployed?
Really give this some thought. What you're doing is seeing how one tiny aspect of a character's life, something the reader will not know about that person right off, can vary their action/reaction. Why is this, and how does it help deepen characterization?