“What can you do when so many people arrive at your doorstep, bleeding and begging for their lives?”
“You pretend that they’re not people and that you can’t help.”
The elf portal in Yotaku has opened in earnest. Moreover, another portal has opened in each of Jerr and Veld, respectively spewing orcs and dwarves into the realm. With millions of refugees simultaneously fleeing the destruction of their worlds, humanity’s leaders decide to hide the truth and send a joint mission with agents of all major nations.
Yuuto Aimaru, the observer, is chosen to represent Yotaku. This is the purpose for which he has been cruelly bred, a game of intrigue and trickery. Each country cares only to further its designs, and Yuuto is a spy well versed in deceit.
Would Yuuto do anything for his emperor and country?
“Discovering a character’s backstory when you’re a intuitive sort of author.” by Andrew Mowere
I’ve written posts before discussing the benefits and drawbacks of being a pantser rather than a planning author. These covered things like believability, plot twists, and the lack of ability to plan your novel as a jigsaw puzzle.
My name is Andrew Mowere and today I’d like to talk about how I create backstory for a character that I don’t yet know.
There are many authors, even those who write intuitively, who have something like a story outline or a list of characters. I’m a bit extreme in that regard because none of that existed when I began writing Adventus, my upcoming dark fantasy novel. I only knew the main character, Yuuto Aimaru, on account of his great-grandfather being an old side-character of mine. I knew the general situation (that three portals have opened in Grimea, spouting elves, dwarves, and orcs into the world), and I knew that there would be an attempt from the world’s various governments to stem the tide of refugees. Other than that, I had the world itself, or some of it.
Enter Ilya Blart, a mustached psion from Jerr.
What I decided to do with this character, as well as many others, is allow him to take his own path and then seek to ask the question ‘why’.
Let’s try a few examples. The continent of Jerr holds a grudge against Regalia, and so Ilya speaks in an unpleasant manner to those from Regalia. He hides his accent, though.
Why hide the accent?
Well, that’s simple enough. The people of Jerr have a heavy plutocracy, and power is what brings money in Grimea. Ergo, Ilya is ashamed of the fact that Jerr lost to Regalia a long time ago.
Let’s try another one. Ilya is seen as being bloodthirsty in the novel. At the same time, the group rejects a request to investigate a murder in a town they pass by.Despite his bloodthirsty nature, Ilya shows restraint in the group, lashing out only with words.
Why restrain himself?
Ilya is a serial killer who murders an innocent person in most villages they pass by. This means that he often passed for a normal man in Jerr, before the novel, and would often kill people in secret, this sating his eagerness. Morever, he now chooses targets carefully because his first murder was in a bar fight, which he deeply regretted. In fact, this regret ran to the point that he attempted to apologize to his first victim’s grandmother, earning the signature scar next to his left eye.
A final example. When Biyum, the orc, puts themselves in danger in order to save the group from a horde of zombies, Ilya seems shocked. Afterwards, he becomes so angry that he fights Biyum to a standstill, but then builds a friendship with Biyum and abandons his mission.
Why get angry with Biyum?
He never had any friends and doesn’t understand the concept. It was unconceivable to him that someone would sacrifice themselves to save another. This tells us much about the people whose minds he used to enter.
I believe that there is a great deal to be said about creating a solid backstory and then building up a character from it. However, this style doesn’t fit me. Besides, the backstory of a character often isn’t told in the novel. It is mostly shown via context. Because of this, I prefer to build the character (core, values, likes and dislikes is how I like to do it) and then allow them to roam free in the novel, acting as they may. It becomes my responsibility to then understand their motivations and reveal them at my leisure.
You could also call it ‘explaining things away conveniently’ if you’d like. I think it works. You may take my path or any other you choose as long as your characters are human, so to speak. I hope that your approach works for you.
Thank you for reading this. If you thought that Ilya was an interesting person, then I am pleased to inform you that he is one of eight characters that travel together. Adventus is a dark fantasy about how governments abuse refugees, but it is also about terrible people becoming good friends. Please consider pre-ordering it here for the reduced price of 2.99$. The book will come out on the 1st of September for 4.99$.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Mowere is an accountant from Missouri. After failing to write two novels, he retreated and returned with the world called Grimea. He considers Adventus (the first novel in this world) his one true debut. He is one third of the Association of Merry Makers.