Backstory and Theme?

Forums Fiction Characters Backstory and Theme?

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    I’m in planning for my series and my first book, but I’m stalling out a bit namely on the backstory of the protagonist. So I had a few questions:

    1) Should be themes derive from my backstory or should my backstory adhere to my themes? This might be a chicken or egg problem, but I’m still trying to lock down my theme.

    2) if there are components to story structure, than are there similar components to backstory? If so, what are they? I find checklists help give me a good plan with which to work towards.

    Thank you!


    Okay. I think you’re misunderstanding things a bit here, so let’s separate a couple of these issues regarding your first question:

    Character and Theme: These two issues are similar in different ways, but they’re also different. Based on what you said you’re trying to do, it sounds like you need to focus on character and theme as two separate issues for now. Your characters’ backstory might play into their arc (and the theme) later on, but for now, I think you should just focus on building the character. Theme will play its part later on in the story, but for now, focus on who you want your character to be, and how they became that person. That’s what backstory is.

    As for how theme will correspond to your characters’ story arc, @kate and @daeus-lamb will know more than I do.

    Your second question is a bit easier to answer. Backstory, the way I see it, reflects the stages of life that we go through as regular people. We all have things that make us who we are–things that happened in our past, things that led us to believe and think the way we do today–but there are also regular stages of life that we go through, like being born, going to school, becoming a pre-teen, a teenager, and an adult, and other things of that nature.

    With that in mind, all you have to do is plug different events into those stages. What happened to your character as a child that led them to believe or act a certain way in their teenage years? What happens to your character in the teenage years to make them behave in a certain way as an adult? Stuff like that.

    Does that answer your question? Feel free to ask again if it didn’t.

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    Kate Lamb

    @coggleton ack! I’m so sorry; I thought I replied to this already. 😛

    Not being a checklist person myself, I can’t say there really is a solid formula that you can just cross off as you do the steps. At least not that I can think of.

    But backstory is pretty simple. Especially for the protagonist. A person’s backstory is what made them who they are— and both taught them the truths that they know and formed in them the lies that they believe. The lies your protagonist believes are the heart of your theme. That’s where backstory comes in. Once we understand what formed the lies in the character’s worldview, and what he’s been through to make him believe as he does, we better understand what he has to learn to eliminate them.

    Does that make sense?

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

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