Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.
This week features Shannon looking into how looking into developing a character’s backstory in detail can help inform character developemnt.
This is an updated version of a column that Shannon Muir did for a sister site.
One thing I really enjoy is creating characters. I lay out timelines of their lives, with key events that help form their personality from birth until the time the story takes place. Sometimes I find the events of a character’s past need to be told in detail as part of story line, but more often than not this isn’t the case.
At that point, it becomes a matter of figuring out how much of the background developed should be shared with the audience. I confess I’m often tempted to marble in some backstory in small ways, but I always need to pay attention to not getting carried away doing so. In the end, it’s the main plot that must prevail.
After all, there’s always the hope people will like the character enough to see more stories, allowing more opportunities to learn even more about the backstory. I certainly do establish areas in my backstory development that I could use for future stories if something catches on; my biggest fear is people liking what I write but my not being able to follow up with another story with the characters. It gives me the reassurance that my characters have the potential to be much more than one-shot wonders.
However, there are definitely some stories that are best served where everything should be told in one tale and nothing more. These are not generally ones I end up telling, but may very well be the gift of others. Experiment and discover what is best for you.
Until next time!