Originally posted in October:
First of all, I ask your forgiveness for my sudden disappearance. The past few days I have been either busy or my mind has been as blank as popsicle stick. If all goes well, you'll have me all week this go round.
Today I'm bringing up backstory again. My head's been immersed in it lately, so I'm sorry if it annoys you. Feel free to say what you want to hear in the comments. Besides, that'll help me out for my popsicle days. Please don't make me eat a popsicle. It is far too cold out.
So, actually starting, how much to do we really know our character's background? Pfft! Like, king Garth is evil andgreedy and wants to take over the entire world.
Yes, yes, we get that. But why? One of my greatest pet peeves in the story of an old friend of mine was her enemy. Sure, she got it across that he was evil, but I didn't know why or what he had done. Of course, I was a timid little coward back then who thought she couldn't say anything because it would hurt the writer's feelings. Yeah, I wasn't the brightest cookie.
Okay, so let's take this Garth character (who, for the record, wasn't a friend's character). What happened to make him crave power? Hmm. Maybe his family had been next to powerless his whole life. He was sick and tired of it, and was determined to make a better life for himself.
Yawns. Too simple. Maybe his family had all the rights and power as any commoner in the nation. But maybe he was powerless specifically. Maybe his parents had beaten him around and abused him all his life. By now, you're probably sitting back watching all the gory details and are proud of yourself for your excellent work in backstory. But we're not yet done. After all, Garth has some decisions to make. He's tired of being abused, so he enlists in the army, where he gets paid to beat up people like his parents had him. He demonstrates skill, and he moves up the ranks. Finally, he's one of the best, but it's not good enough. He doesn't have enough power.
Where could he get more power? Hmm. Ah! The king and queen! No, no, that's too simple. He'd have to work his way in. So let's make him start to eye those princesses. Ah, the eldest is next in line for the throne. But, no, we can't have her. She's engaged. The younger one will do just fine. He'd sort out the other problems later.
But maybe it was more complex that that. Let's go back. Perhaps, as well as he was beat, he'd fallen in love with a girl while his heart was still semi-good. Maybe she'd been beat and abused and he was powerless to help her because of his own position.
What if this same girl had been sold as a slave, ended up in the castle where the king and queen found her and had pity, and then was adopted by them? When Garth starts looking for more power, chances are he'd notice the girl and have his heart strings strung. He may not realize it's her, but it might make his choice easier. He'd marry her and gain access to the larger part of the castle.
Now, how to make him a king? Perhaps the girl does fall for him, and easily plays into his scheme. Or maybe she's not interested and he has to work his way in to get her. Perhaps he sets up a death trap and saves her from immenent death.
Even better yet, it wasn't her but someone posing as her because she was in her lessons. However, she catches wind of what happened and begins to fall for him. Soon they're engages and he's so hopelessy in love with her that he tells her his plan to get rid of her older sister in order for them to be able to rule.
She can't believe it, and leaves to think on what happened. So, at the next ball, the girl Garth dances with is not his princess, but her double, the one who has truly been swooning over him for the past few years ever since he saved her. He swoops her aside where he fills her in on more details of the crime, but the double knew nothing about it and was horrified. She drew a concealed weapon and realized she had to destroy her love. But Garth's sense of destroying things takes over, and before he realizes it, his anger has left him with a limp corpse. Heart torn in two of what he'd done to his love, he fled the scene and disappeared completely for a few years.
He's determined to get the throne now. His love's death wasn't going to be for nothing. He rounds up an army of rogues, storms the castle, and kidnaps the new king and queen, and steals their daughter so that there shall be no more heirs. When their daughter is grown, he shall marry her and be able to call himself the rightful king of the land.
You see? By asking simple questions you can start to unravel whole, complete, and complex backstories that will reveal more sideplots that will strengthen your story into something much more complex and original. Now we don't just know why Garth is evil, but how he became that way, and our hearts are somewhat attached. This was once a young boy who didn't want to be beaten, and he didn't want his love beaten.
It doesn't take much of your time, either. Garth was an old character of mine. However, he was just evil king Garth. I didn't understand backstory back then. Most of this you see here? Made up just this morning. After you get a rough skeleton like this, you can add in all the little details that will bring it to life. Why did Garth fall in love with that girl? Did Garth ever decide to pay his parents back? Did Garth have any siblings who suffered similar beatings? And more importantly, what happened to the true princess, and what does she do?
Ask questions. You can uncover a lot of ground. Hope y'all have a great day!
-Silence a la Grulkey