The Career Author Podcast: Episode 140 – Character Backstory

Character Backstory

Character Backstory

We all have a story. The unique events that each of us experience build us and make us who we are. And the characters in your stories should be no different. 

Backstory is crucial for helping your character feel relatable to the reader. But what memories should you include in your books? And how do you deliver the information to the reader without it appearing as an info dump?

Join J. and Zach as they discuss the importance of backstory and how to properly implement it into your stories.

The Career Author Podcast is a podcast where co-authors J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon share their struggles and successes as full-time authors, advice for improving your writing craft, and honest discussions of what it takes to build a successful career as an author.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The big question to ask when determining what backstory to include in your work
  • Why backstory is important
  • How to implement backstory into your writing
  • Showing versus Telling your backstory
  • How to work backstory into a series of novels

Also, Zach recommends one of his favorite YouTube channels for productivity.

Send us your ways and hacks – https://thecareerauthor.com/waysandhacks/ 

Leave us a comment: What are your tricks or tips for writing your first chapter?

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10 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 140 – Character Backstory

  • Hello again guys, I think I made it first again.

    How I deliver backstory is once and again in flashbacks, but also in some of their actions. There is a series I am still working on that has a character who has a very specific enemy that has been chasing her. She is a little paranoid in the first book, because she is constantly looking over her shoulder, wondering if he is still after her. (He is, spoiler alert, but you don’t find that out for a bit.)

    I also have done the psychic thing because in several stories, I have a psychic character. Though, my favorite way to do it is with the first series, where a guy literally chooses what memories he had and which he discards every few days. If he wants to find some memory–backstory–he has to use a machine to go back and play it. It might seem weird, yet I think it is a unique-ish way to show the character’s backstory.

    Yes, I want the full audio just to hear the first podcast of J Thorn. And, maybe I would do a sprint, maybe not. Who knows…

  • Morning guys and Lon. Interesting topic today, but I digress.
    …in 1958 when my mum gave birth to me…
    Backstory often frustrates me unless it’s a random sentence here and there and is relevant to both the whole story and the now of the story.
    …I loved living in Nairobi but when the Mau Mau…
    To answer your question; the way I try to deliver backstory is similar to the way I used to try and talk to young ladies; not that I’ve done that for many years, given my 30th Wedding anniversary is tomorrow.
    …old WW2 RAF camps were amazing places for a young boy with an imagination to live in…
    I would drop the odd hint here and there and let my potential date fill in the gaps using her own imagination.
    … secondary school in Cyprus as a teenager was like being on permanent holiday; until the Turks invaded…
    So my backstory, both dating and writing, is intended as bait to entice and flavour, with the occasional hard fact thrown in to prevent misunderstanding.
    …and that’s why at 16 I joined the British Army…
    My dating backstory method appeared to work for me. Might not now. But I’m not sure if my writing backstory style works.
    Great show and it would be interesting to listen to J from 40 years ago, even though for me, that was almost yesterday.

  • Your tape story takes me back away. The house we lived in when we were kids had a big rec-room downstairs with a bar at one end. This is where we kept all our toys. Now, one day a bunch of us where playing while dad did something behind the bar. Then we heard ourselves laughing and screaming from that end of the room. Dad had borrowed a reel-to-reel tape player with which he’d recorded us as we played. Ten to fifteen minutes worth.

    I can’t say when I learnt that info dumps were bad, but I do remember knowing by the time I’d finished the 1st draft of my 1st completed novel that back-story needed to be woven into the main story as it developed. Those early attempts weren’t pretty but they’d put me moving in the right direction. I still struggle with finding the right place to put such information in and have been taken to task multiple times for not effectively seeding a revelation moment before springing it on my readers. As you’ve noted, the real trick is in balancing how much to use in any specific place.

  • I just point out the landmarks when you miss them on an actual landmark. And this was a good landmark episode.
    I am looking forward to that tape. I was like oh release the whole thing when you said you were going to edit it. and then you were like oh Chad and Lon might like the whole thing. Get out of my head guys.

    Backstory wise. I am still getting the hang of it. I have some ideas of backstory but I just jump into my characters. I know deep back history and basic back story of the characters but my sprinkling it in like spices is a little lacking at the moment. One of the many things I am tightening up in revisions.

    I hope Zach is watching his Dallas stars throw down. I have been turning on the games just to watch some hockey like an addict. It is nice when teams that my friends like win since my Pens are watching from their homes.

  • A craft skill I’ve been working on. Since it’s a big focus of mine at the moment, I’ve been reading some novels that do back story very well and learning how they’ve done it. Dropping it in at the right spot seems very crucial to me and what I’m working on figuring out how it fits well into my stories.

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