So we know that back story is important, but how do we create it?
That’s easy – tap in to your inner pre-schooler.
Not quite sure what I mean? Head on down to your local elementary school. Ask for a guest pass to the pre-school classroom (bring some credentials so the school secretary doesn’t think you’re crazy). Then go observe. Listen. Count the number of times you hear the students ask, ‘why’? Now go home and do the same thing. That’s how you create back story.
Some of you have already had the light bulb do on – you know exactly where to start and how you’re going to create 30+ years of fictionalized lives. Others are staring at the computer screen, blinking. I’ve just presented a good theory, but … what? How do you even know where to start? Then there are a few of you who are wondering if you should bring a treat into the pre-school room – don’t. I was just kidding about that. Don’t worry, though. I’ll help you and the deer-in-the-headlight figure this out.
You need to start asking questions, but it can be hard to figure out which questions to start with. That’s okay. Dozens of people have already created character questionnaires that you can grab online. Just Google it – there are 8,800,000 results! Or, if you’re feeling a bit mischievous, go to a dating website. Check out their user profiles. Start asking yourself similar questions about your characters. Then start asking why.
For those of you who don’t want to sift through the 8 million questionnaires (or the 46 million dating sites), I’ll share my worksheet with you. It’s not the most comprehensive worksheet (you’ll have to go to eHarmony for that one), but it’s a good start and that’s all you really need. After that, it’s all about the ‘why’.
Name: Age: Job:
Height: Weight: Eyes: Hair:
Other Physical Characteristics:
Character Conflicts with Other Protagonist(s):
Romantic/Interpersonal Conflict (what keeps them apart):
Danger (If I love him/her…):
How this character renews the spirits of others:
How do strengths overcome weaknesses for a happy ending:
What does the character learn: