Monday, January 31, 2011

Part IX Suspense - Backstory

Backstory is the part of a character’s life that has passed before the story begins. As in all fiction, backstory motivates action, emotion, and attitudes of the character based on past experiences. In suspense, the character’s past sets up ways he thinks and responds whether he is the protagonist, victim or antagonist in the story.

When creating backstory, create a life for your major characters back to their childhood--family discipline, birth order, family dysfunction, family social status, education and experiences, successes, failtures, romantic experience, family health, personal health, career choice, regional influences, religion, hobbies, traits, and everything else that might be important. Then use this information to build who your character is today and how it affects him in the suspense situation.

In suspense, do not neglect the antagonist. What happened in the life of the villain to make him who he is today and why he functions as he does. Follow the same procedures for developing his characterization. The villain will be covered more fully in an upcoming blog.

In suspense, backstory can provide details that explain specific character elements needed in the novel .
• ability in solving puzzles
• determination to succeed or win
• ability to manipulate or camouflage
• reasons for revenge
• unique talents or traits vital to the plot
• emphasis phobias or fears
• reveal reaction patterns
• can foreshadow experiences that parallel future or present event

Besides dialogue, suspense often provides backstory elements in flashbacks or detailed memories to set up past experiences in vivid detail so the reader can understand the motivation for the crime and the character’s motivation and goals to commit or resolve the crime.

Some basic rules to keep in mind is use backstory:
• On a need to know basis to reveal characterization or provide tension.
• To arouse a readers curiosity
• In small portions through introspection
• For the most part, in active delivery through dialogue or action.

The next blog will cover goals and motivation as related to suspense.

About Me

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Multi-award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin writes Christian fiction for Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. She has forty-seven contracted novels with over three million books in print. Gail is the author of Writers Digiest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker at churches, libraries and civic organizations  and presents workshops at conference across the US. Gail live in the Detroit area.

Writing the Christian RomanceGroom in Training (Love Inspired)Dad in Training (Thorndike Press Large Print Christian Fiction)Bride in Training (Love Inspired)In His Dreams (Michigan Island, Book 3) (Love Inspired #407)Loving Treasures (Loving Series #1) (Love Inspired #177)Loving Hearts (Loving Series #2) (Love Inspired #199)In His Eyes (Michigan Island, Book 1) (Love Inspired #361)Family in His Heart (Michigan Island, Book 4) (Love Inspired #427)Loving Care (Loving Series #4) (Love Inspired #239)Through The Eyes Of A ChildLoving Ways (Loving Series #3) (Love Inspired #231)The Christmas Kite (Steeple Hill Women's Fiction #2)Loving Feelings (Loving Series #6) (Love Inspired #303)And Baby Makes Five (Monterey Peninsula Series #1) (Heartsong Presents #770) 

A Dad Of His Own - Coming March 2011
Dad In Training, Groom in Training, Bride in Training - Steeple Hill Love Inspired
Monterey Memories - Barbour Publishing
Writing The Christian Romance - Writers Digest 

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