Do you do back stories?



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  • #16
    Re: My chiropractor writes back stories.

    My stories usually start with character, so the story can't really change when I know more about the character.
    The most important thing about the character I knew before I came up with the story.
    * stands up and applauds *


    • #17
      Re: My chiropractor writes back stories.

      I have been known to do this now and then, but what usually happens is rather than enticing me to put too much information into the script, I leave important pieces out. I've spent so much time with my characters by the time I sit to write pages that I assume the reader knows as much about them as I do. Inevitably, I get notes from my drafts that indicate that they don't.

      Ya just can't win.


      • #18
        Re: My chiropractor writes back stories.

        Mine are brief, but lately they form more of a preliminary idea-story-theme-spread sheet outlines.

        Doing more than the hero in my first script totally messed my initial intent of certain characters.

        It did seem right at the time, but now I can see how it can qualify in the 'over researching' handicap.

        Just doesn't feel right for me lately. The details of story-telling seem like the better thing to toggle with in my head. Toggling ideas or possibilities of a character's past, it is kind of difficult.

        My thing lately is I'm trying to ALWAYS write spontaneous ideas down immediately and not waiting until later, b/c they fizzle like champagne as soon as they pour I need my glass ready to catch them.


        • #19
          Re: My chiropractor writes back stories.

          Characterizations are and have always been the most difficult thing for me. I feel as if I know my characters in my head, but then there is always that little voice who says I am doing something wrong if my characterization isn't long enough, or if I decide to skip over it entirely. I have found that I am questioning myself even more lately because my new screenplay is all about the life of one of my characters, and knowing everything about this person, from her childhood imaginary friends, to the color she painted her office, is so important.


          • #20
            Geneaology Is All About Back Stories

            Wanting to know who's who in a historical mystery, (like whose "brother Frank"), I compiled a couple of geneaologies of the two principal characters for "The Watseka Wonder" and posted them at


            • #21
              I do extensive character bios. I also do a journal exercise I stole from Goreomedy (another DD'er) where I have my characters confront a situation that's totally unrelated to the story, then record their thoughts/feelings about it over a seven day period (yes, an actual seven day period). I do another journal exercise, usually after the first draft, where I write a synopsis of the story from each character's POV (in each character's voice, capturing their thoughts and feelings, desires and goals, etc.). I do visualization exercises. I mentally cast my roles. I have "conversations" with my characters about everything from politics and religion to movies and music to the story itself.

              It's fun.

              And none of it is written in stone. I'm very flexible and totally willing to toss out all of my character discoveries if I have to.

              I'm also willing to go in a completely different direction with the story if one of my characters "suggests" it.

              Eh. You do what you gotta do. Nothing wrong with any of it.


              • #22
                I also do a journal exercise I stole from Goreomedy (another DD'er) where I have my characters confront a situation that's totally unrelated to the story, then record their thoughts/feelings
                I like to do this, too, and sometimes I use stories in the news headlines and place my character in the story and see how they act and react.

                One of the exercises we did as screenwriting students was to combine two news stories or take the characters from one news story and plunk them down in the circumstances of another story. That got the brain working.


                • #23
                  Yes. Yes. yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. For each important character. Couldn't handle an epic without it. Plus I enjoy doing it. It beats loneliness.


                  • #24
                    but not in some sort of elaborate Q&A where you're just randomly filling in details <hmmm, first kiss, let's see... first job, hmm, he gets his hair cut on Tuesday's at the barber's, etc.>
                    backstory is really *relevant* events in the character's life that happenned offscreen (in the past) and are revealed in bits during the film / the present.
                    so if you're going to have well-rounded, well-developed characters who feel real and alive, you must have backstory.
                    the key is knowing what to include and what not to include.
                    Fex, in "Sideways" the backstory is Miles' divorce. We don't really know why he's divorced (something to do with an affair) we don't know specific details, we just know that he is divorced. Miles came into the story -- full and realized (with a history) of which *relevant* details were revealed.
                    In Spiderman/Batman - to use something more mainstream - the backstory of the childhood trauma is usually shown at the beginning... and then it's a flashforward...
                    that's the long answer.
                    short answer is yes, but be careful and selective of the backstory elements you include.


                    • #25
                      If your story is satirical (you know, twisted stuff from the likes of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut... all the gangs from 30 years or more of Saturday Night Live... and other eccentric artists), you might do the opposite of what writerly is suggesting in the previous post to accentuate the irony of life. Brook's History of the World, Part 1, for example, is full of it. :lol :eek :rollin


                      • #26
                        The Art Director of "History of the World" was a guest speaker in one of my film classes. He said that (for a while, anyway) Mel Brooks was banned from the Universal lot because he refused to strike the Roman set from that movie.

                        Just a bit of trivia.


                        • #27
                          I don't. I agree with the comments that any detail that is important should be either directly going into the story or somehow implicitly conveyed through the character's speech, actions, mannerisms, etc.

                          What's much more important to me is that I have that moment, hopefully earlier enough in the drafting, where the characters "start speaking for themselves" as I like to think of it. Where the dialogue comes fast and easy, and new scenes start to spring up or be revised because I grow to know the characters well enough that they start doing and saying things on their own and I become more like a court reporter jotting it all down.