Writing a Character Backstory

On the weekend just past, I had a chance to play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) after a substantial gap of around two years. This was to be a fresh game that required a new character.

The Dungeon Master (DM) is the person who both manages the game and reacts when a player takes an action. She asked each player to write a backstory for our characters that could then be worked into the game.

When writing a novel, it’s a good idea to write up the backstory of the main characters. This helps to keep the action consistent throughout the story, even if you don’t end up using every detail.

The same technique can be used with a D&D character. Mine is called Kat Herder, and she:

  • grew up in a small town and worked as a butcher’s apprentice
  • left to join the military so she could travel, and became a highly-ranked soldier
  • unexpectedly left the military after 15 years, but kept travelling and taking on casual work

But I also don’t have to think of every detail. We’re playing the game in a fictional world that already has its own story, and Kat simply needs to fit into it.

The DM has asked me further questions to enhance the story, so I’ll be working on that this week.

Restoration

I’ve had some computer problems over the weekend. Windows was running slowly and wouldn’t update, and I eventually had to perform a system restore.

Although this has caused lots of short-term chaos, it seems to be a good long-term solution; it already feels like a new machine. Unfortunately, this episode has taken up so much of my attention that I don’t have a full blog entry for you.

However, I did manage to catch up with some reading earlier in the week. I was on a train to Birmingham and back, a total of around 11 hours, so I’m halfway through the short story collection Arcanum Unbounded by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson.

Most authors write short stories of mayble a few thousand words long and that stand alone from each other. By contrast, this author’s short stories are more like novel extracts, while some would qualify as novellas. What’s more, almost all of them link into the same universe, known as the Cosmere.

I bought the book when I met Sanderson last year because there were no more copies of his latest novel left. I’m glad I started with this collection as it’s given me an excellent sample of his style, and now I look forward to tackling his novels when I have the chance.