I think the above* perfectly illustrates Alison Janssen ‘s terrific Dead Guy post last week about character backstory and how it affects (or should) his or her reactions and interactions to everyone and everything.
Backstory is far more complex than a set of statistics on a character sheet. And, as Ms. Janssen explains so brilliantly, a big part of how to effectively use backstory related to how experiences fade, or not, over time.
My WIP is set five years after an extraction job goes FUBAR. There are several reasons it all went wrong, and each character involved—some of whom don’t have all the facts—dealt with the aftermath in his or her own way.
This seems like a classic revenge set up, yes?
But revenge may be vichyssoise (or gazpacho, if you prefer), but it takes a certain kind of personality, a considerably heinous crime, or a strong reminder—or all three—to keep those initial feelings of subjectively righteous hatred fresh enough to make sense to the reader.
Or perhaps the five year timeline needs to be tweaked . . .
This isn’t to say that motivations can’t be simple or straightforward . . .but a character’s past experiences also influence his or her ability to make a simple, straightforward decision instead of, say, analyzing it to death. Ahem, cough.
In other, shorter, words, cardboard floats—but real characters have depth.
I think I’ll go diving today.
*Courtesy of Randall Munroe, super genius.