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Origin Stories - The Possibilities are Endless

Cole Matthews


Character development is not an easy, or formulaic, task.  Many of us read and write stories that are character-driven.  We fall in love with a character we create, or read, and follow their life and events as they unfold.  This means a writer can create the character's habits, quirks, strengths, weaknesses, and reactions through the use of narrative.  However, there are times when a writer needs a back story for a character, a motivation, a sort of history that helped form the character's personality.

That's when an origin story in a character sketch can be helpful.  As a writer, we may never even put our character's 'origin story' in the narrative.  Maybe you leak the origin story between the lines.  Perhaps the origin story is known by other characters who then insinuate the motivations behind behavior.  There are several ways you can use an origin story, including using it as the character reveals their most intimate secrets.  There are lots of possibilities.

So, let's practice this art.

#147 - Your character had a birthday party when he was eight.  Nobody showed up.  What did he do?  What happened next?  How did it change him?

#148 -  Your character was six when her mother won the lottery.  Before that, they lived in a shared one bedroom apartment with two other people.  How did this affect her?  What did she think of her life before the money, and then after?  How did her circumstances change her feelings about herself?

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These are some of my favorite prompts ever. I love forming my characters' backstories. And honestly, a lot of that information never makes it onto the page in the strictest literal sense, but how those characters are shaped by those backstories is obvious in every scene.

Bravo! Love these!

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