feature: Life Stories in Literature

Quotation: “characters come to tell me their backstory”


“When I embark on a writing project, my characters come to tell me their backstory. Very little of it—perhaps none—might be referred to in the final draft, but it’s there nonetheless, hiding in the decisions that each character makes, driving their reaction to every event. They tell me, these characters, of past incidents, big and small: the people they’ve lost, the resentments that still burn; their shame, their guilt, and their quiet joys and loves. They tell me how they grew to be themselves.”

— novelist Lexie Elliott

I don’t write fiction, but I’m always interested in hearing from people who do, especially about how their writing process works. One of the areas that particularly fascinates me is how characters come to them. 

Lexie Elliott’s explanation here of how her characters come to her reminds me of the character biography component of Life Stories in Literature.

The character’s life story becomes the backstory against which the novel unfolds.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

3 thoughts on “Quotation: “characters come to tell me their backstory””

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      I write nonfiction, but whenever I have had a particular writing problem that needed a solution, that solution usually arrived while I was in the shower. But I’ve never been hit by such inspiration while driving. Thanks for commenting

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