From “Save the Cat” to “Mastering Plot Twists” to “Outlining Your Novel,” I’ve got quite the library of writing craft books. And it was with some trepidition and excitement that I read Focused Backstory by Carol Alwood. After all, what could she tell me that all those author sages couldn’t? Turns out, she has plenty to say.
All authors, with possibly the exception of Stephanie Meyers, create backstories for their characters. This is the story before the story, if you will. It’s what makes the character act and think the way they do when we finally meet them in the novel. And creating one makes a huge impact on how an author not only writes the characters but determines how the story progresses, amongst other things.
Carol Alwood did a great job of breaking down exactly how to create a back story for the main character and helping to decide which other characters needed a back story to be revealed during the story. She also suggests where to put these pieces of information in the story. That was a tremendous help right there, actually.
She doesn’t stop there, though. She also touches on symbolism and subtext, character arcs, subplots, and sequels. It’s amazing how much back story affects the book as a whole.
There were a few negatives but, as far as “negatives” go, they weren’t really that terrible. First, there was a disproportionate amount of movie examples to book examples. I understand movies are easier to use because many people see popular movies rather than specific books. It just would have been nice, is all. The types of examples stuck close to popular fiction, which did not include any mystery novels (which is what I write for the most part). Finally, I didn’t see a link to her site so I could download the copious amounts of worksheets, templates, and tables she so generously supplied in the book.
I would definitely recommend Focused Backstory to an author who has read other craft books but needs a better understanding of character development that affects storytelling.
GoodReads Rating ★★★★☆ I really liked it and highly recommend it (for authors).
About the Book
Book: Focused Backstory
Author: Carol Alwood
Genre: Non-fiction, writing resource
Release Date: June 26, 2019
Click here to get your copy.
About the Author
More from Carol
Focused Backstory resulted from a personal quest to please industry critics who suggested I keep character history out of the first pages of my novels. My initial questions to this advice were: What? Why? I searched for resources to figure out how to write a more powerful beginning without relying on the past but found little help. On a mission to find answers, I studied popular books, television and movies to abstract what made stories work and — boom! I found it! We can break down backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story without compromising artistry. This book provides definitions, examples, worksheets, templates, and comics to help writers study the art of using powerful character histories to keep readers turning pages. I’m so excited to offer this resource and hope it will empower your writing as it has mine.
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To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.