|The Story Genius course started
as a book. Lisa Cron uses concrete
methods to guide story creation.
That’s right, fellow writers! Before you begin to write forward in your story, you need to understand who your protagonist is and why she acts the way she does. What happened in her life before the story opens that makes her think and act this way? Just like real people, characters are molded by prior life experience.
Understanding the backstory of the protagonist [as well as secondary characters] is vital for fiction writers to create believable characters for their stories. And that helps readers to connect with the characters and care about them.
Lisa Cron of Story Genius believes that writers must understand their characters before they can even begin to write the story present. Cron believes stories are character driven as opposed to plot driven.
Cron’s concept of a character-driven story helps me to see that a particular story can only happen to this character because of how the character was raised or because of specific events that have happened to this character in her life before the present story action occurs.
It’s a concept of specifics: this particular story can only happen to this particular character because of her past and how she interpreted it. It’s the character’s beliefs that drive the story forward and help the reader to connect to her.
A particular character with her own beliefs and specific backstory works in memoir as well, although I must admit that I feel like I’ve been on a therapist’s couch for weeks now. Looking for the “why” of my insecurity in college is giving me a complex—now, in my life’s present story.
I need to discover why I didn’t attend college right after high school and how and where my insecurities developed.
Oooo! I thought. I can tell you why I didn’t go to college right out of high school. We didn’t have any money for college. And my family didn’t believe in loans for college. We went to work after high school.
My editor writes back: “Think deeper. Why?”
My response: I was signing up for high school courses at the time I found out there was no money for college. It was the early 1970’s. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. This was the norm—especially for females.
The editor wrote again: “A deeper why?”
Me: Dad said you only go to college if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer. [But we still didn’t have any money for it.]
Editor: “Why did he think that? How did this make you feel?”
…Do you see why I’m developing a complex over this?
“Dig deeper into your feelings and memories,” the editor said. “Pull out how you developed your insecurities.”
I wanted to write back: Stop picking on me! You and Story Genius are adding to my insecurities. I might require a real therapist couch at this rate.
But I didn’t.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Feel free to visit Adventures in Writing again to learn how I make out with all these questions that are invading my dreams right now. Please leave any insight you may have. It is always greatly appreciated.
8 thoughts on “Story Genius Course: Starting with Backstory”
The deeper we go, the more connections we discover.
Digging deeper makes the difference to the story and gives the reader a closer connection. Great post.
This is so true, Jennifer. But it takes time and, sometimes, frustration to get there. Thanks so much for offering your insight here at Adventures in Writing. I hope all is well.
Thank you so much, Lynda, for your kind words. They mean the world to me. Yes, I believe baring my soul will help connect me to readers. Thanks for offering you insight here at Adventures in Writing. All the best to you!
Story Genius sounds like a great resource. I need to check it out. I've a friend who might be interested too. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great weekend!
Thank you for this, Karen. Please let me know if you and or your friend do sign up. Please tell Story Genius that you learned of this wonderful resource from Victoria Marie Lees. Thanks so much for leaving a note here on Adventures in Writing. All the best to you!
I would have a complex too. I always disliked that three letter word; why. I remember getting that on assignments in high school and college. At least now when I get it from my students, I have some of the answers. Good luck!
Thank you so much for this, Michelle! Lucky you for having at least some of the answers. I'm still pulling my hair out. Always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks for your note!