Too many sad backstories???

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TheWolfyGirl
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Too many sad backstories???

#1 Post by TheWolfyGirl » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:56 pm

I tend to go overboard, and all my characters end up having something horrible happen to them. It's fine if one or two characters do, but it's all of mine. Does anyone have any tips on how to avoid this?

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trekopedia
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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#2 Post by trekopedia » Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:23 pm

That can happen easily sometimes. My suggestion is to pick a character -any character for this purpose- and then select one or two positive aspects / characteristics of that character. Now go through your plot / storyline in the mindset of that character, holding the selected aspects / characteristics near-and-dear to your heart, and fight for that character. What would it take for that character to survive and thrive in the story world without necessarily destroying your overall plotline?

Now do the same for each of your characters. Bring them to life by living their life for them, in their mindset, within the context of the world you are creating.

Finally, after doing that for all of your characters, put your general author hat back on, take another look at all the characters and identify which one fought poorest for their life. That character is someone that needs help, support, from your other characters. Find a way to help that character. Now identify the character that fought the 2nd poorest. That's the poor schlep that's going to have to suffer in service of the plot. Unleash the forces of Hades on *that* character. Because, um, well, someone has to get it...

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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#3 Post by Qwxlea » Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:37 am

In one of the writing podcast I listen to, the advice was given to use a spreadsheet for characters and /or plot-outlining. First I thought that to be a weird recommendation, but after trying it, a spreadsheet gives a nice overview of things.

If you combine several character sheets on one page you can easily see what all your characters have in common. If they all walk with a limp, are orphans, and are bi-curious, then you might have to bring more variation to your characters.

The same thing you can do for plotting, see how to outline a seven point story structure

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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#4 Post by Mammon » Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:25 am

You could try splitting all those past-tense issues into past-present-future. Some of them have dramatic events in their past, others are currently dealing with something negative and some are worried about something unwanted to happen to them soon enough.

Also, it doesn't all have to be terrible. Some people can consider something more mundane as the worst thing ever, and if you're a good writer then any regular issue can be made relevant enough by ways of presenting it. In fact, those less significant issues are more easily relateable by the audience than something truly horrible or traumatising.
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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#5 Post by ArcialIntegra » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:25 pm

Sad backstories aren't a bad thing, but if you feel like you don't want your characters to have sad backstories, all you have to do is change it.
Bruce Wayne became Batman because his parents were murdered. But, what if his parents never died? He could very easily have become Batman just because he wanted to take his parents ideals to the next level and clean the streets himself, from the shadows, while his parents acted in the light.
Emelia didn't need a sad back-story to be relatable in Re:Zero, because the idea of the society being racist against half-elves when there were lizard people and other, more obvious aspects of people to be divided on. Emelia's case came across as poorly done and forced as a result so it would have been better off not given.
If you think a specific backstory is necessary, I guarantee you it isn't. All you need is to think "How would my character still be this way even if this tragic event never happened to him/her?"

Hisao in Katawa Shoujo is a good example of this. He never showed signs of heart problems before, so him having his heart attack came as a shock to him and his family. If it was known that he had this issue, it wouldn't have been as much of a shock and we, the players, wouldn't have felt as much about it as we did. We can relate better by a tragic event happening than we can a tragic event having had happened.

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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#6 Post by Zelan » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:17 pm

ArcialIntegra wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:25 pm
If you think a specific backstory is necessary, I guarantee you it isn't. All you need is to think "How would my character still be this way even if this tragic event never happened to him/her?"

Hisao in Katawa Shoujo is a good example of this. He never showed signs of heart problems before, so him having his heart attack came as a shock to him and his family. If it was known that he had this issue, it wouldn't have been as much of a shock and we, the players, wouldn't have felt as much about it as we did. We can relate better by a tragic event happening than we can a tragic event having had happened.
I don't know about this advice. I think what you're trying to get at is that there are multiple ways to achieve the same characterization, and you're not wrong, but it doesn't make it a bad thing to define the backstory. A person who suffered abuse from parents vs. abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend will have differences in their personality as a result of these events. And if the person's current character includes "traumatized," then... well, the backstory is going to have to be kind of sad.

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Re: Too many sad backstories???

#7 Post by Ezmar » Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:24 am

It can also be a good idea to have characters with already-resolved issues. Their hardships had an effect on who they are, but they don't have any active trauma or anything, it's all in the past. For example, I have a character who suffered from a lot of social isolation due to shyness, etc, but has since overcome those problems and has learned to be confident in who they are. Now obviously this is different if you want to have characters with their own routes with issues to resolve, but you can play with degrees of this. Another example could be Amane from Grisaia; there are certain parts of her past she's cone to terms with, and certain parts she hasn't.

What's important is not that everyone has a different backstory, but that every character feels unique. As long as the details and effects of the past experiences are varied, it doesn't matter as much if everyone coincidentally has some sort of past trauma.

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