Back story isn’t the back bone of America… It’s the back bone of Writing.
I hate writing back stories. I can’t stress how absolutely frustrating it is. Am I alone here? Am I only the one who feels this way? I’m currently in the process of reworking or tweaking a few chapters of my book. I had a character who I’ve recently added and am currently exploring. Without giving anything away, I can say he is not a very likable person. He is complex. He is confusing to me. And here lies my problem.
When you create a character, you must know him/her inside out. Otherwise, he’ll always remain aloof and ambiguous to your audience. Creating a character your audience can connect with is what’s story telling is all about, right? People don’t want the boring white guy who goes to Starbucks and orders a foamy latte every morning before work. They want the guy who goes to Starbucks and orders the Dirty Hippie. And yes, that drink does exist.
I’ve been through the web a dozen times looking up great tips for the writer. In the end, I’m probably procrastinating but it can’t be helped. I’m stuck with this scene. What I’ve found is that when I’m stuck with a scene it’s because the scene is no good. But unfortunately this part is needed. I love writing the back story as a flashback and it’s a mechanism that I use religiously in my writing, but for this particular scene/character it won’t do.
Google, the one with all the answers, has promptly told me that perhaps I should sit down with a notebook and scribble whatever comes to mind. For non-writers, this is called freewriting. Typically, it has helped immensely in the past here it seems to be very dry. I take up pen in my hand and doodle a few pretty flowers and then some words. But my pencil feels heavy and I find words won’t come.
An hour swiftly follows and I’m staring madly at the colorless wall in front. My eyes trace patterns in the plaster before me as my imagination keeps turning. Recently, I watched Fight Club. That is a great movie with a load of awesome characters. What makes a great character? As I watched the movie, I came to realize a few things.
Firstly, a great character has flaws. Deep flaws. They’re fucked up people. It’s their fucked up-ness that attaches us to them. We crave their drama. Their horrible terribleness. Their self-loathing or severe confusion. We feed on it like piranhas. This character who is giving me such a terrible time is very messed up. At first, you don’t realize it but then it slowly dawns on you. He’s so awful your dad would have a heart attack if he found you with him. In fact, your dad would take his baseball bat and smash this guy’s head in for talking to you.
Another attribute of this character is his snarkiness. He is a damn asshole. He doesn’t give a crap about you or anyone else for that matter. If you came up to him and asked for a cigarette, he might help your nicotine craving or he just might smirk and walk away. A snarky person thinks he is better than everyone else and this sets him drastically apart from the world. His attitude of indifference makes him an absolute loner. Not a loser. Just a loner. We’re not talking about the loner who always eats his lunch alone in the school cafeteria and looks terrible sad. We’re talking about the loner who chooses to eat alone because people are just to dumb to deal with. He’s frustrated with humanity’s idiocy and separates himself from the rest.
My character is a terrible person. He pretty much screws everyone in the book, but that’s giving away too much for now. For those who’ll eventually read my book and then find this post, you can probably guess who I’m talking about. So far, it’s been a thrilling ride working with the characters in my book. I’m sure this will turn into an adventure as well.