Monday, July 7, 2008

B is For Basics--Background is Basic

You can’t beat a good character for making sure your readers get involved in your story. Not only that, but it gives you proper motivation for your story goals.

For instance, if you use the zodiac signs to chart your character traits—the simple ones that give general traits without worrying about sun signs, moon position and all that. You can find the perfect character with the traits you need to give your protagonist so she can act in appropriate ways. And you can find the perfect opposite to drive her crazy, create the conflict in a romance and/or the angst with the right villain.

While your protagonist is water (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio) your romantic interest/or even your antagonist could be a fire sign (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius). The traits of those people, both strengths and weaknesses should give you enough individual conflicting traits to weave a great story.

Once you determine your characters’ Birthdate, you can dig further to define him or her. There are references to birthdates tied to tree charts. For instance, Aries birthday falls somewhere between March 21 and April 19, so we will pick April 3 (out of a hat) that makes her a Rowan Tree (The sensitivity) who is full of charm, cheerful, gifted without egotism, likes to draw attention, loves life, motion, unrest, even complications and the list goes on. I can pick and choose which traits I want to portray for my character. Certainly you can find an opposite for most of those characteristics, not that you need to use them all.

Another consideration for backstory would be where they grew up. Both parents alive living together or raised by a single parent, adopted or foster parent(s)? What about home life? Siblings, or an only child, what state, country, large or small town/city?

Look at your own background and that of your friends, and someone you dislike—even the choice of careers helps shape your character. An adopted daughter of a multi-millionaire family, living in Hollywood, California will probably have a completely different outlook on life than a girl born as the fourth child in a family of seven children in a small farming community in the Midwest where the land and the life challenges by the weather, amount to survival for the strongest. Throw these two together even without or in spite of their birthdates, they will exhibit different traits and may be polar opposites.

Your character’s background is an important part of your story worth telling. It makes him real. It helps your reader relate to him or her. Even if you don’t use all the information you have laid out in your character chart, you need to know it so your character behaves appropriately in every situation and hooks your reader.


Billie A Williams is an award winning, multi-published author whose

characters are

accidental sleuths who solve crimes with

wit, wisdom and chutzpah.

Characters in Search of an Author

ISBN 978-1932794151

Available anywhere or

No comments: