I've been quiet for the past week because I've been working on a photo book. Several years ago, I collected family photos, some of which go back more than a hundred years. I finished it and sent it off last night.
So, as is my habit, I look at everything, and I mean everything, as what it can teach me about writing. And this photobook has something to do with Backstory, with where we come from.
Every character has a past, hinting at that past can tell you a lot about that character, what matters to them, what motivates them. For instance, my mother is a nurse, I have a master's degree (education, if you must know) and my father went to college. Of course.
But my grandfather didn't go to college and my grandmother went to business school for a year, I think. Most of my mother's family were farmers – not the intellectual elite that I'd assumed we were. Because that's what we are now. We have a slew of teachers: art, music, science and special needs. And education IS very important to us. But would I have had anything in common with my great grandmother if I'd known her at my age?
Probably not. She had been married and had 7 kids (one of whom died of disease in the nursery) by the time she was my age. And I'm not sure she graduated from high school.
So, back to characters. One of my characters lost her parents in an accident when she was a teenager, another used to belong to a gang. The romantic lead is more than shy, he's gun-shy. His family has money and a gold-digger had him going before he figured out what she was really after was the money. Knowing this about them is essential to how they react and what motivates them. I may never say what happened to them, in so many words, but their past is there.
What are the pasts your characters have to deal with?
Photo: I'm not sure who took it, probably my grandfather. It's my aunt and my mom, as kids.