Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Most people assume that Backstory refers to the character’s biography, family history, etc, and I’m not above including some of that here. To me, though, Backstory encompasses the big events that shape and define a character. And so this is where I keep my well of ideas, if you will, for great revelations that would send the story in a new direction. These are the things that are going on in the story that your audience does not know about until it’s revealed (at the most opportune dramatic moment, of course). Come on, how much fun is that? I love Backstory! And while I don’t always agree with Robert McKee, I have embraced his ideas about Backstory:

Powerful revelations come from the BACKSTORY – previous significant events in the lives of the characters that the writer can reveal at critical moments to create Turning Points.

If you were, say, writing Empire Strikes Back and composing a Development Sheet for Luke, this is where you’d be constructing the Backstory about his real father. If you were, say, working with Robert Towne on Chinatown, this is where you'd write-out that twisted Backstory of the Cross family.

(Back to the Character Development Sheet)

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