Tuesday Choice Words

After yesterday's blog post about whether we should have an understanding of why a villain is bad (their background), I'm still in a quandary over my own 'monster'. In the novel I'm working on, Jared is what they call 'damaged goods'. His mother was a drug addict and he spent a lot of time living on the streets. My quandary is that I can't decide whether it would add anything to the novel for the reader to know his back story, or if I do reveal his upbringing, how much of it to include. Will it move the story along?

The Other Side of the Story offers up many fascinating and incredibly useful articles on a regular basis and this one - 5 Steps to Better Characters Arcs - is no exception. It may well come in useful in making my decision about Jared.


  1. I only bring up backstory where and when it's important to know. Otherwise you wind up with an info dump and that just turns away readers.

    1. That's what I'm thinking, Kelly. We don't need to sympathise with Jared really. He's pathetic enough (but dangerous) by his actions alone.

  2. I'm having the same debate with one of my own characters. At first, I thought my villain's background would leave my readers sympathizing with him but as I tried to untangle his past, I felt my writing getting more tangled. Unless you feel like your villain's actions really need to be defined by his background, then I would think hard about whether or not you want to invest the effort in trying to further uncomplicate the complicated. Good luck Fi!

  3. I think it's helpful for you to know the backstory as the writer, but whether or not to divulge it to the reader is not really necessary - it becomes a case of "tell rather than show", which is information overload, and it's great to keep readers guessing. Why is Jared the way he is? How could he do what he did? It creates discussion between readers and that is exciting!

  4. Like Kelly, I only reveal information about my character's past when it influences the story and can help the readers understand my character (or even understand why other characters treat him/her a certain way). But if Jared's background doesn't explain why he is the way he is or does the things he does in your story then maybe it's not needed.

    Good luck!!

  5. Thanks both of you for the helpful comments. Lots to think about.


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