Friday, January 4, 2013

The Backstory: the Truth Behind the Consequences

My goal in Saint Sullivan's Daughter was to introduce characters that feel real. A method for creating three-dimensional characters is to imagine, even write down, a story outside the story. Some of their backstory can be revealed through dialog, even narration, but alot of it is subtext.  Ideally, backstory is a strongly braided cable that can support the character's arc from beginning to end.

I plotted each character's prior history, and imagined their personality quirks, even if I don't have room them all in the story.  Through doing this, I came to love even the antagonists. Knowing the reasons for their behaviors, it was hard to allow Dora to be such a poor mother, to let Barry fail so often, and allow Ceci to suffer.

It also pays to learn the backstory in real life. A mere mile's walk in someone else's shoes would never reveal the alcoholic parents, the kindnesses done in secret, and the dreams yet unfulfilled. We respond differently to others when we hear their stories.

I'd love to know your favorite characters in the book. What do you like about them? If I were to write a sequel, which character would you have me feature?


  1. maryellen rose marinoJanuary 4, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    i have enjoyed the reading of this book. i felt invested in the characters and my favorite was pilar who seemed to be all things to all people. she had gentle and yet strong ways about her and seemed to be able to love everyone. i would like to know more of her story. i would also be interested in knowing what happens to dora.

    1. Hi Maryellen,

      Maybe Pilar is a lot like you.

      I have been thinking about Dora. I'm wondering how she might change for the better.

      I'm not sure yet whether I will write a sequel, but if there's interest I might.

    2. PS. Thank you for your comment, Maryellen!


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