Saturday, December 6, 2014


Does The Character Have a History?

Now that some of you have read "Class Dismissed," posted on this blog, you know a bit more about Jamus' past experiences in Magiskeep.

The fact is, nearly all characters in novels have backstories, or histories the reader may never know. Sometimes, not even the author knows for sure. Yet, as the character develops in the new novel, elements and events from his/her past certainly impact the story.

I know one stage director who insists her actors write up an autobiography of the characters they are going to play in a production as part of their preparation for mastering the role. The idea is for the actors to study the text of the play and analyze the characters motivations, desires, inspirations and possible past histories that make them who they are in the play.

A good playwright will craft enough "character" into his/her characters to make them seem to be real people so that perceptive actors can really "get into their heads" to portray them effectively on stage.

While the novelist never has an actor performing his/her book, as a good writer, he/she needs to have characters as well-developed. That means that somewhere, even if it's never on paper, the characters have backstories.

Often these histories play a role in the story. Jamus' childhood, for instance has a vital role in the nightmare that haunts him and keeps him from discovering the full extent of his power when he is still an apprentice.  Mention of his loving parents also accents the isolation he suffers with an uncaring Sagari as an adoptive father. Too, his childhood in the Rim sets him apart from the other students causing much of the novel's early conflict.

As the novels progress, readers will learn more of his past and begin to see how the pieces of his life fit together to drive him to become the Rivermaster.

Other characters too have backstories revealed as time goes on. Although the reader may never quite know their full stories, the parts of their lives that impact the larger story reveal themselves in the larger plot.

A writer succeeds in creating believable characters if readers can "write" their backstories in their heads as they read.

I''m working hard to make that happen in The Saga of Magiskeep. 

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