Friday, June 17, 2011

Flour to Kneed Characterization

 Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs.  Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger.  If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.  ~Dale Carnegie ~

Behind every great character is their past. What made them who they are at the moment you open the front cover of their story. I'm talking about behind the backstory, molding experiences not included in the actual manuscript. And as much as I'd planned on exploring this topic in a series beginning today, it will have to wait until next Tuesday. But there is purpose in using this lead for today's post.

Most of you know I'm a major ice hockey fan, that my dad coached for years, and that three of my four children currently still play. I've spent most of my childhood and now adulthood in an ice rink--part of my backstory. So it should come as no surprised that I was glued to the TV on Wednesday night watching the Boston Bruins play Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup Championship.

I tip my hat to the Bruins, who are 2011 Stanley Cup Champions!! 
Credit for photo
This team's journey took them through an entire season of ups and downs, three game 7 series, and finally to winning the coveted crown of Stanley Cup Champions. Each played a part, moving them forward in their story. Every element of your character's backstory is designed to serve the same purpose. If one part doesn't do it's job or is muddled, the ultimate goal can't be accomplished. For the Boston Bruins, that goal was winning the Stanley Cup. For you as a writer, it's crafting irresistible characters as rich on the inside as on the outside. A writer can begin stacking the odds in their favor of achieving that goal even before the character starts breathing on the page--and that's behind the backstory.

So I leave you with the quote above and this brief post to ponder. Apply it to yourselves as writers and also to your characters. You are both valuable and worth it. 

(I'll be in NYC & Atlantic City next week with the hubs for a conference he must attend. I'll try my best to pay you visits and continue working. Enjoy your weekend!!)    


  1. Great quote. And it helps to remember this when you're struggling with those big things.

    Have fun next week.

  2. So true! It's the small seemingly unimportant detail about a character that make them real.

  3. Oh, I'm really looking forward to your series of posts! Sometimes, with fictional people, it's easy to overlook the details of how they became who they are, but it detracts from the richness of the story if you do.

  4. All we have to do is look at our own lives and realize how much went into getting us to this point. And it was an exciting game seven, wasn't it?

  5. This is very true and I look forward to your new series of posts.

  6. Great advice. I now spend a lot of time writing the backstories for all my major players before I start plotting my novels. These backstories usually don't make it into the story but they are fun to write and help me figure out my plot.

  7. Very true! Even the minor characters in your story must have a full life of experiences to bring to the tale, even if the reader never learns the details. No character should be merely backdrop.

  8. Lovely post and lovely quote!!!

    Have a safe and great trip! :D

  9. Stina - Exactly! That's where I think I am with my next YA and two MG stories. I've been stuck for so long on them. I think visiting the characters before they were my characters is what I need to do.

  10. I really like that quote. It will make me feel better when I'm putting the dirty dishes away, LOL!

  11. that quote actually made me think about my characters as in 'there are no small characters'- each one should serve a purpose but also be entertaining and vivid enough to speak to be present, add to the story and keep the readers attention. Go bruins!!

  12. Even if I never use it in my manuscript, I love delving into my character's history. It enriches my writing and therefore, them. And it's fun!

  13. backstory is so important. The better the backstory I've written for my characters the easier it is for me to know what they're going to do next, how they're going to feel. Plus I actually enjoy writing them. It doesn't matter if only a miniscule portion ever makes it into the manuscript, just having it makes the whole process easier.

    and how about those Canuck fans? What a bunch of sore losers!!!

  14. That's a wonderful quote! It reminds me of another saying that really helped me through tough days (dealing with everything from school to writing): "Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."

    Great post, by the way. Backstory isn't just important for readers, it's also important for us as writers because it gets us thinking about who our characters really are and how they came to be who they are in the present. Thanks for touching up on this topic.


  15. Go Bruins! I guess I can root for them, considering I lived in the Bean for three years. (Cohasset to be specific) As for the quote, I WILL CONQUER!


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