If you haven't read the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde . . . what in the heck are you waiting for? OMG - LOVE THIS SERIES.
Jasper Fforde takes a tongue-in-cheek approach, to, well, writing.
In his latest adventure the fictional Thursday Next, not the real one from this world, because in Jasper Fforde's world, the fictional characters are as real as, well, you and I. Uh-huh! Too dang funny.
In this latest adventure - One of our Thursdays is Missing - when the real Thursday Next goes missing, it's up to the fictional Thursday Next (as written by the real Thursday Next) to discover what happened.
Okay, so in the first chapter, one of the fictional characters (yeah, try keeping that straight in your mind) makes the following statement "My author couldn't be bothered to give me one (i.e., backstory)" - p. 2.
Now, the fictional Thursday Next, speaking in the first person . . .
I always appreciated honesty, even as personal as this. There weren't many characters in the BookWorld who had been left unscathed by the often selfish demands of their creators. A clumsily written and unrealistic set of conflicting motivations can have a character in therapy for decades - perhaps forever. (p. 2)
Too, dang funny. And, dear Jasper continues to make jibes like this throughout the entire series. In fact, the endings to the books that we know Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, etc. - well, you'll have to read the series to find out what I'm talking about. Clever, very, very clever.
But, raving about Thursday Next isn't the point of this post. The above italicized paragraph is the point of this post. Oh, and if you read yesterday's post, you don't have to pay attention to this post . . . unless you want to. Ha! Anyhow, the above italicised paragraph demonstrates the following: backstory is a necessary part of writing, as are realistic non-conflicting motivations.
Whether I like to admit it or not, my characters don't begin their existence on Page 1, Page 20, Page 40, or whatever. That might be when they first appear to the reader - fully formed, sometimes clothed, sometimes not - but they had complete lives before the reader first read about Jack and Jill going up the hill. Jack, in fact, was one of seven kids, the middle child, and . . . well, you see, he didn't just appear on Page 1, holding Jill's hand, and going up the hill.
Neither do the characters I write about. I create backstory for them so that - hopefully - my readers can relate to them. For me, backstory happens continually throughout the book, especially when the characters react with family members. Because, trust me on this, there isn't a non-dysfunctional family out there, and there isn't a person that doesn't have a whole lot of emotional baggage dragging along behind them - fictional or real. So, backstory, in small doses, throughout my writing, is how I insure that my fictional characters don't end up in "therapy for decades - perhaps forever" (p. 2)! Ha!!
As for motivation, if it isn't clear to the reader, why keep reading? I mean, Jack and Jill went up the hill to get some water. The motivation is somewhat clear: they obviously needed water. But, what if clearer motivation was provided: they had to get water to put out a fire that Jill started by sneaking cigarettes from her chain smoking momma and, well, she tossed the butt into the dry leaves and - BAM - instant bonfire, which wasn't a good thing, because the pile of leaves was next to the house, and next thing they knew the thatch roof caught on fire and . . .
So, Jill's motivation - besides wanting some nookie from Jack - in going up the hill, was to get the water to put out the fire that she started.
Now, Jill might still end up in therapy. She was chain-smoking at a young age, and had illicit designs on Jack, and there was the whole lie I don't know how the fire started, Momma she told, and . . .
. . . you should hopefully have gotten my point by now. Make sure your characters have backstory, and that the motivation for their actions is clear.
Now . . . Go read the entire Thursday Next series -
The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
One of our Thursdays is Missing