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?