Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Before the beginning, there was.... uh, what?

Okay, so my story begins when my characters are ages 15 and 17. They have a history, but no one knows it. The characters don't even know it. It will be revealed to all as the series progresses.

The thing is - I don't quite know it yet either, and I want to. I want to know that back story. I want to know their history.

Unfortunately, since it hasn't been written yet, I'm as much in the dark right now as readers will be later. But the author should know, right?

So I have two little side projects along with writing my main MS -- I'm going to write that back story. It will really just be for my own edification, and probably no one will ever read it, but I will have it, and I think it will help with writing the novels.

Because as they say--you don't really know where you're going unless you understand where you came from.

They will be short, maybe about 30k - 40k each, 2 novellas which chronicle the beginning.

Do you ever experience this when you're writing? Or do you usually already know the history of your characters and your story when you start?


Erinn said...

I normally have some vague notion of who they are, but most of the details come from revision and other time.

Aubrie said...

Oh yes, sometimes their back story doesn't come out until the middle of the book! Then I have to go back and integrate it. But that's okay with me.

Once it took me three chapters to find out that one of my characters was psychic. I wondered why she didn't just tell me up front, but you know how these things are...

Chris Catledge said...

I'll have a shadow of an idea of where I want to go. Once I begin writing my shadow disappears and I go in a totally different direction.

Joanne said...

I generally have an idea of their history. Sometimes to help build that history, I'll look at certain traits or behaviors they have, and wonder back, about what prompted those traits.

rebel_of_nowhere said...

I usually have a general idea of it, but never find out until much later in the story.

Of course, sometimes my characters decide to be annoying and spill their life story when they are specifically told not to, but they're learning.

Or, I'm learning ways to get them to shut up.

Kenda said...

I'm in that dilemma now with the start of my second book. The setting and time frame are there, and a glimpse of my character and her problems--but still very vague. Can't wait to get to know her! Lots of journaling and character mapping to do here :-)

Jemi Fraser said...

I tend to let the characters wander around in my head for a week or two before I start to write. That way I get to know the backstory - although I never know the story until I actually write it. :)

Talli Roland said...

I agree with Aubrie - sometimes my characters' stories just jump out at me when I'm in the middle! Other times, I might have a vague idea but nothing concrete. They really come into their own when I'm writing.

Mesmerix said...

I do character synopsises for each person, no matter how minor. It's usually just an outline of everything about that person, including a timeline of major events from birth to present. More important characters get more in depth than minor, but I know about everyone. My synopsises (synopsi?) are for my eyes only, and are more note-like than a story.

Anonymous said...

Funny how different writers prefer different methods. I myself never know what's happening. lol And that analogy can be said for my day to day life as well. ;)

I usually do some form of character outline when it comes to appearance, mannerisms, etc., just to make things clearer for me, but as far as plot and character development, nada.

P.S. Love the blog!

Terri Tiffany said...

We are all so different. I usually know alot of their backstory because that is what gives them their motivation for change and the lies they tell themselves:)

Janet Johnson said...

I definitely learn as I go along. I didn't know back story for some characters till I was 3/4 of the way through. Amazingly it still worked. As though the book knew or something. But yeah, it definitely is important to know. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I knew hardly anything about my character's history and where the story would end up when I started writing TAT, but it's been fun discovering them as I go along. That said, I'll probably do a little more character biography-ing for my next one because it will help set me on the right path so I won't have to do as many revisions.

WritingNut said...

Erinn - Thanks for sharing!

Aubrie - I definitely do ;)

Chris - I know - that always happens to me, but I think it usually works out :)

Joanne - That's a great exercise too!

Rebel - Ahhh, it's so true! You never know who's really in control.

Kenda - It's weird how it just hits you suddenly, but your plan sounds great - good luck! :)

Jemi - That's a good idea too. I find things change so often, it's hard to get a firm grasp on them until you actually start writing.

Talli - It's amazing how strong stories can form out of that ambiguity!

Mesmerix - That's something I need to try - I've only done that for my MC's so far.

Nathalie - I hear you! Thank you so much for stopping by :)

Terri - You're right :D. I think that's why I'm so anxious to know my MC's backstories as well.

Janet - I'm glad it did! And thank you :)

Amanda - I think it can work both ways - either you know before or you learn as you go - whichever is best for you :)

Krispy said...

I never know everything about my characters when I start writing them. It doesn't help that quite a few of them are in the business of keeping secrets, which makes them especially difficult to work with. XP

The side stories are a good idea. That's usually how I figure things out - by forcing the characters to show me. Good luck!