Saturday, 10 August 2019

Writing: The Importance of Backstory

I have spent most of the day singing random songs from the Anastasia soundtrack instead of remembering to write this post. So now that I've finally sat down to write, I've actually got something in mind.

Anastasia has always been one of my favourite stories, and it has absolutely gorgeous music. ๐Ÿ˜ But more than that, it has well-crafted characters, deep themes, a fabulous plot, and so many childhood memories associated with it.

So sit back, and enjoy the journey "one step at a time," after all, "who knows where this road may go?" ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favourite parts about books are the characters. Getting to know them is just like making new friends who you can love and cry over...All without actually having to socialise, or even leave your room! (Every introvert's utopia, am I right?) And as writers, we score the chance to actually create these beautiful and unique characters for our readers to relate to. 

But what are some of the ways we can make characters worth reading? I find that one of the most helpful things when you're trying to grow your own writing, is to look at other people's stories, and what they did that made you fall in love with them...To the point that you find yourself singing about them while editing your latest short story!

So, as you can tell, this post has been inspired by Anastasia, and is focusing on how backstory creates amazing characters.

I have heard someone say that backstory is when authors make excuses for their characters and hope to win the readers over with what they went through. Hopefully, if you're writing backstories right, that's not what it is at all. Others say that it's good, but it will just turn up when it turns up, and you don't need to think about it too hard. However, backstory has an effect on every part of your characters, and your story.

Backstory is the set up of your character, and story. It is what has shaped the character into who they are, and when has set the scene for you. In a sense, it's the background of your painting. The expressionist artist, Edvard Munch, probably didn't start his painting The Scream with the person, and just filled the background in later. He needed to work on the sky, the sea, and the bridge before adding the character. And this is appropriate. The painting would just look wrong if the background was a beautiful, bright meadow, wouldn't it?

In the same way, actually having a clue about your character's backstory is important before you just go and write them.


Image result for journey to the past lyrics

Characters are lovable because they have a purpose and a goal that they're striving to reach through the story. Typically, the reason behind them wanting to gain this is because they have a reason dating back to their backstory. In Anastasia, it sure is nicer to know that Dimitri is a greedy opportunist because he's an orphaned kitchen-hand who's been starving along with all of Russia for the past ten years. Despite his methods being somewhat wrong, we can understand his goal, and appreciate him for it. The backstory makes his dreams of being free and rich seem reasonable and logical...not just convenient.

When you're writing, remember that the backstory of your character is the set-up for who they are, why they are, and what they want. Without the story before the story, there is not that depth and wealth of reason behind your characters.


Which is a more interesting character: A Russian princess who has a perfectly fine life thank-you-very-much, or an orphaned, amnestic, day-dreaming long-lost Russian princess whose entire family line was murdered by an evil sorcerer? 

Not only does backstory help us understand a character, but it just makes them more interesting in general. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

Most good characters have a 'wound' in their past. Something traumatic that happened to them. This makes them a lot easier to relate to, and to want to succeed. Without a wound, they can't grow from it. And with no growth, you probably have a boring character who just sits around eating licorice or something.

The Dangers

Unless you happen to be Victor Hugo while writing Les Misรฉrables, you probably should avoid writing about thirty years of pure backstory in great detail, taking up approximately 100 pages of your novel before you reach the actual story. 

Keep the backstory more developed in your notebook than in your story. Write out every little detail you want in a notebook, but pick and choose what goes into the actual story itself. You are not Victor Hugo. (Please tell me if you are, cos that'd be awesome!)

Find appropriate times to mention backstory. You don't need to dump it all into a prologue. Throughout your story, there will be opportunities for the ball scene in Anastasia when she recalls what happened 'Once Upon a December.' Casual comments about backstory are also nice.

Don't just use a backstory as a cop-out. Reading an annoying character who has no development is going to be a pain, and giving them a tragic backstory is probably not going to make up for how much we hate reading him. So take note that the characters still need to have something likable, not just a pitiable backstory.

So there you have it. Looking at backstory through the lense of Anastasia. I hope you all are as hyped about singing fleshing out some more backstories now!

Do you love Anastasia as much as I do? What are your thoughts on backstories?

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Returning with a Review (ROMANOV Book Review)

It's been a long time since I've done one of these. In fact, I haven't been around much anywhere as of late. So, sorry to anyone who I've not gotten back to about various things. But I should be around once again now!

In the last few months, I've done a lot of things, including sitting exams, writing music, applying for jobs, seeing a real bandicoot, buying books, reading books, and writing...less books than I hoped. But that's okay! ๐Ÿ˜Š

However, now that I am back, I'm starting off with something I don't do much of, but definitely should start doing.

Prepare to hear about one of my favourite books!

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it. 

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other. 


Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She is the author of Fawkes, Romanov, and the award-winning Out of Time Series. Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she’s not busy writing novels about bold living, she’s adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. Nadine, her Auror husband, and their Halfling son are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.

(You can check out Nadine's site here, at Nadine Brandes - YA Author. I recommend it. She's cool. ๐Ÿ˜œ)

I mean, just looking at the cover should be enough of an explanation on why I'm in love with this book. The Russian aesthetic, fairy-tale aesthetic, and just how pretty it is?? No way could I not want to read it.

Not to mention that it's been written by one of the most amazing authors that I know, Nadine Brandes.
If you like magic, history, plot twists, amazing characters, and sweet romance, then you should definitely read this book.

I had been waiting ever since I finished Fawkes to read Romanov. The cover is gorgeous, the blurb is fantastic, and when you actually read the book, it's even better!

The more I've been reading historical fantasy, the more I've been able to appreciate how cool it is to have my two favourite things together:
1. History
2. Magic

Nadine's blended these two things together beautifully, as always, and once again has built an amazing and unique story around the true history of the Romanov family.

One of my favourite parts of books is to get to know the characters, and there are so many brilliant, raw, and real characters in those pages. Even for characters who had relatively minor roles, we got to know them and see who they were, and I think that is probably one of the things Nadine does best. Whether it was the sister-relationships, or the beautiful friendships forming between the two sides, it was realistic, deep, and heart-wrenching. I felt that I could connect with all of the characters, especially Nastya. ❤

I cannot emphasise (or flail) enough about the plot twists! Even though I know the story of the Romanov family from studying history, hearing it told in a different way and from such an engaging style meant I didn't see basically any of the plot twists coming. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't read it fast enough to find out what would happen next.

I'd definitely recommend this book, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I have!

I love reading books so much, and I love being able to help authors out. No clue why I don't write reviews more often. I guess that's a new thing to be working on.

For now, enjoy hunting down more books!

Have you read Romanov? What did you think?

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Tag: The Liebster Award

We've finished our first week of January, and I haven't quite melted from the sun. As is, my fingers still seem to be working well enough to do a blog post, even if it isn't highly imaginative. (Although, looking a bit closer, it seems to be.)

I've been tagged with the Liebster Award tag, which pretty much means that I have been given a bunch of questions to answer, then to tag other people. Many thanks to Aberdeen the Authorosaurus (and Mariposa) for tagging me with this, and I shall give it a shot! I'm pretty sure I did this a while back, but they were very different questions then opposed to now, so it shall be interesting.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the blog that nominated you for the award.
  2. Answer the questions they gave you.
  3. Give 11 fun facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 other bloggers for the award and give them 11 questions to answer.

  1. What tune would you hate to get stuck in your head? (yes, you’re welcome for getting it stuck in your head now)

    Hmm, I constantly have music going on in my head, so I'd say the most annoying tunes to get stuck in my head are the ones that I can't identify. *nodnod* Or only know part of. Both are pretty bad.

  2. If you were a dinosaur, what species would you be and why?

    Gosh. Have an Australian Dinosaur. Muttaburrassaurus. Why? Because...I am Australian, and there is something like 5 that I could be, and that is the most prominent, so, I suppose that makes it a 4/10 chance?

  3. What is your favourite book in a genre you don’t normally read?

    Hmmm, probably In 27 Days by Alison Gervais. It's a book of mixed recommendations, but I really enjoyed it, despite it being VERY different to usual. Like...Contemporary supernatural romance? Anyone else who's read it, what genre would you say it is?

  4. What is the first thing you saw this morning?

    The ceiling. Prior to the sun being anywhere near the horizon. Sooo, something like this:

  5. If you could make up a dinosaur species, what would it be called and what would it look like?

    This is a really hard question.

    How about I create a dinosaur that's primary function is to write? It has one claw thingo larger than the others, and it excretes something kinda inky. This creature is horrible at defending itself, but has a great imagination, and is highly coordinated. Its skin also sheds as large sheets of parchment. We'll call it, Historiascriptorerumraptor. (History's Historian Raptor)

  6. If you could have a pen that looked like anything you wanted, what would you pick?

    Something that could morph in size, shape and appearance. xD Then I could pick up an invisible pen and write with it, or I could be plotting Russ's story with Russ's iconic pen!

  7. What fictional character depicts your current mood right now?

    Shallan, from The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. Why? Well, she seems to swap pretty regularly, so I'm sure one of her emotion's fits mine.

  8. What is the most ridiculous pen name that fits your personality?

    Probably something like, "Fueled by Chai."

  9. What is the funniest text you’ve received/written?

  10. If a dinosaur was roaming around your yard, what would you do?

    I probably wouldn't notice for the first little while, then wonder why Mum was screaming, then probably be 98% sure I was hallucinating. Although, what size is the dinosaur? That could change things a bit.

  11. Would you rather only be able to write one magnificent book every ten years, or one mediocre book every year?

    One magnificent book every ten years? Yeouch. That would be what I'd choose if that was the final product. If you're talking pre-draft, then I'd take one a year. But... I reckon I turn out 3-4 mediocre first drafts every year, so I have no clue. *sigh*

Questions answered! Eleven fun facts about me? Well. This could get random.

  1. I prefer to crack apples in half before eating them. Looks intimidating, plus, it makes it easier.
  2. Two out of the three of my favourite first drafts that I've written result in the narrating character dying. Sorry guys.
  3. I'm an INFP that school acquaintances think is an INTJ, friends think is an INTP, and close friends know is an INFP.
  4. 95% of adults have been asking me what I'm currently studying in uni since I was in year 10, and I still have very little desire to go to uni.
  5. I live on a cattle farm.
  6. I drink copious amounts of chai tea.
  7. I am known to make references to my own books, then get sad cos no-one gets them. (like leaving post-it-notes with 'GTG' when I leave a room or go on a long walk.)
  8. I have had my iPod for five years, and I am yet to smash the screen. It does not have a cover or a case.
  9. I do not own a phone.
  10. I tend to talk with my hands.
Hopefully, there are a few crazy things in there that you did not guess/already know.

Now, for anyone out there who wants to give this tag a go, here are some questions to answer.

  1. Favourite hot beverage?
  2. What are your top 5 prettiest book covers?
  3. Do you have a favourite book/movie troupe? What is it?
  4. What are your top 5 book quotes?
  5. Do you dislike something that EVERYONE seems to like? (Harry Potter, chocolate, just to name a few ideas.)
  6. Board games or card games?
  7. What is the main virtue that you wish you had more of?
  8. What is your favourite climate?
  9. What smells best: Old books, new books, second-hand books, in between books?
  10. Which of Aberdeen the Authorosaurus's questions do you most like?
  11. Answer that question.

That is all for that tag, and thank you once again, Aberdeen the Authorosaurus for tagging me. Not every day that you get tagged by a dinosaur. Also, I'm gonna say a kinda thank you to Eliza Leblanc for 'tagging' me in this too! (You left it open, so I'll take it as a tag.)

Anyone who wants to do this tag, go on ahead and let me know! Or, you could just answer some questions below. That works too. ;D (But honestly, what dinosaur species would you create? Have you had any crazy texts?)

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2019: A New Beginning

There have been a lot of posts about new starts and resolutions floating about in my inbox lately, and now I'm doing one myself.

I'm not a huge person for making vows to try and keep, because if I even slightly fail at some point, I tend to give up completely. Not such a great way of acting, and it's definitely something I'm going to be working on.

2018 was a great year for ideas and taking new steps. I alpha read two amazing books, did my first official lot of edits on one of my own works, completed 'the worst year at school,' and started doing a lot more about the place as a writer.

I also struggled a lot, and have been constantly having to be reminded to keep on leaning on God. It's something I've always known in theory, but when life is really getting painful, it's very easy to either push God from your mind, or to start heaping the blame on Him. But these last few months have definitely been a journey to keep my eyes focused upward, and to trust continually.

And now, a new year has begun, and it is time for us to move on with it!

I'm not certain as to what this year will hold; I know that it will involve finally finishing off at school, and doing some more writing and editing, but that's as far as I can guess. However, that doesn't make it any less interesting to think about what things I plan to do. Besides, that means I can look back at the end of the year and laugh at how differently things went.

Top Three Books to be Written:

1. Broken Chains

This is a contemporary/action story about a police officer’s son who joined forces with his best friend in order to stop a weapon dealing circle, only to realise he’d been tricked and ended up with a lot of evidence—and a gunpointing at him.

The idea has been floating around for a while, and has some characters who I absolutely adore. So, I really hope to give it a shot in the first few months of the year. (aka, I have already started! Eeeep!)

2. Autumn Artist

Who doesn't like contemporary fantasy mystery novels?

The general concept is that the main character is a professionally trained con-artist, and has been hired to infiltrate a wealthy family's home, down in a fantasy version of modern day Australia, except there is one problem...she has been signed up as an artist with two weeks warning and not an artwork to her name.

I'm not certain where this story is going, but I love the aesthetic, and the ideas I have thus far sound like fun to play about with.

3. A World of Ice

When Aaron Ward woke up, he found that he had been in a coma for around five years, and no one knew who he was...not even himself. The world had faced a huge disaster some years back, caused by a scientist who had released a gas into the air that slowly thickened the ozone layerorigninally purposed to stop global warming, but rapidly causing global freezing. Ice now covers the entire world, and no one knows where the scientist who caused this apocalyptic event has vanished to.

As Aaron journies to find an answer, he soon begins to feel that something isn't quite right, and he's not so sure that he even wants to know who he was, or what he had done.

I really love this story idea, and I can't wait to write it! It'll be quite interesting, as it doesn't have a villain so much as just a crazy time limit, but I still think it would be a really cool thing to write.

I love all of these so much, and can't wait to give them a shot! But who knows, I may well come up with some totally different ideas. Plus, I have another short story that I'll be working on throughout the year for school, so that'll be good.


For any who don't know, I have been editing Flightless lately, and I can't wait to see where this will be going. I've gotten a lot of great feedback from some stellar friends who volunteered to read over it and tell me what they thought of the story, and I love those guys so much! (Thanks heaps guys!)

I'm really hoping to have this next lot of edits well and truly done by the end of April this year, and have that draft out to a few alphas by May. *hides at the craziness* I'm not expecting to be looking into all of the publishing things until the end of this year/early next year, but even so, that seems to be coming up scarily fast.

This Blog:

I actually think I'll be able to post once a week again! Yay! That's mostly because I now actually can type up my blog posts on a computer instead of doing them from an iPod, plus, I think I've worked out how to manage my time a bit better. :P

What exactly should you be expecting? I'm not sure. Expect nothing so that you can be surprised by everything!

Yep, a new year has started, and I'm looking forward to seeing what things God brings with it, and what lessons I'll be learning. He's got great things planned, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. That's something that He has proven over and over again, so we can always remember to trust in Him.

I pray that you guys can all remember this year to keep looking up to God and trusting Him to guide your ways. He is good and knows what he is doing with your life...even if you have absolutely no clue.

Good luck to this new year!