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Does a Character’s Past Weigh Them Down? by Traci Kenworth

Does a Character’s Past Weigh Them Down?

Traci Kenworth

Does a character’s past weigh them down? Is it necessary to bring all their known for into the next casting? Think of Dracula, for instance. Do we need to bring each element that he’s known for into a role? Or can we fiddle with events and tell a different tale? It’s interesting to consider, isn’t it? Whether you need to drag everything with a character to make them true.

What about Doc Holliday? There are so many incarnations of his character in movies and TV. Each one is different from the rest. Because they don’ t necessarily let past things he’s known for change what they want in that version. I saw a TV skit on SNL recently where Doc Holliday was sick and just kept blasting everyone with blood. It was a hilarious difference of how things went down.

Working with characters that have been done before in some form can leave you with fewer options to create something new. Sometimes, it’s all in the angle of how you look at things. Spiderman got twists in each movie, the current one being the closest to the comic book image. However, making him Iron Man’s protegee added a new angle to the character.

But what if you have a character that hasn’t been done before? You have to create somewhat of a past for them just the same, don’t you? You can start where they came from: their family, their upbringing, their friends. What age are they? Where do they go to school or are they graduated? A worker down at the mill? What kind of mill? The questions are endless.

Perhaps your character has a reputation as being a hardliner. This is true of a lot of western characters. It’s almost impossible to tell them apart. Unless you bring something new to the mix. A broken-down gunslinger with a soft spot for kids and widows? Someone who just wants to put the violence behind them and move on to peace. Can they do so in a world of chaos?

In some stories, there’s more pasts than just the one to consider. The so-called widow could be just pretending to be a widow because her husband has run off and left her and her young son to fend of the Native Americans on their own. A hardened drifter trying to warn settlers about the danger makes contact with them and gets involved in their lives, helping them with things. Chaos results when a Chief takes an interest in the young son.

Or how about someone who ventures to a new land to escape their past and yet somehow, it still follows. It’s in the way we view things, the way we interact with others, and the decisions we make about life. Our past influences everything. We can’t escape it no matter how hard we try. I wonder if Han Solo wouldn’t have liked not to have that bounty around his neck from Jabba the Hut. Maybe he’d like to be somewhere quiet, a drink in hand, and talking to Chewbacca.

Luke, on the other hand, was weighed down by his desert farmer’s past. He didn’t think he’d ever escape Tatooine. Isn’t that like a lot of us? Wanting to get out from the place we were raised? Sometimes coming home to it after years makes it look different in our eyes. That’s life. We grow. We change. And our past with us.

Happenings: My health seems to be improving still. I feel more energetic and able to do things than in a long time. They are trying to introduce a new med to help with the depression I think brought on by my heart issues but it is not going well. I am ill when I take it. Update on that: when I take a half doze it doesn’t bother me so we’re introducing it slowly.

In other news, we are looking for a new house! Yep, we hope to be out of here as soon as we can! The loan has been pre-approved and we’re looking with an agent. So far, the pickings are slim but we’re holding out hope.

Some happenings around the web you might like:

  1. Writers in the Storm All great relationships have obstacles, including the relationship we have with writing. Sometimes the muse loves us, other times…not so much. What to do When the Muse Stops Talking It’s hard to hear your muse when you’re worried. Worry is loud. It drowns out the wonderful inner voice that spurs your creativity. Instead of stressing because nothing is coming to mind try: Meditation. Freeing the mind for as little as five minutes can dredge up interesting thoughts that might be useful to your writing. Going for a walk. Physical activity is great for releasing stress and clearing the mind. Playing with a pet. Our pets, or if we are speaking of cats, our roommates, seem to have a sixth sense regarding our feelings and often know that we are stressed out before we do. Playing with them is freeing. Your inner voice will be back in rare form in no time. Dwelling on the inability to hear your muse is a waste of time. Step away from the keyboard, do something mindless, and the inner voice will return. Obstacles can be a problem for anyone. Time, responsibilities, you name it. This article has some good tips on how to deal with things. Give it a look.
  2. Entertaining Stories I’m writing this on a Thursday night. This is because I have to drive to Nevada after work tomorrow. I don’t want to be dark, because I’ve been moderately successful maintaining a Friday post. I woke up this morning from a reasonable dream. I could actually hear the voices as a strange caller dialed in to Night Bump Radio. This one needs some time in the fermenter, but it should make a fun bit for a future Hat tale. I need to make it more absurd, then find a way to blame Lizzie and the hat for all of it, but it’s a glimmer of something. Lorelei, the Muse hasn’t completely abandoned me this Spring. Nevada should be my last road trip for a few months. While I still have other things going on, this might allow me to get back to my works in progress. I’m seriously debating driving tomorrow in silence. That usually temps Lorelei to ride along.
  3. Syl’s 65 blog Amen!
  4. Story Empire The origins of homonyms go all the way back to the development of speech and words and to the borrowing of expressions from various languages. Today, we’ll take a look at the ways in which homonyms are used in different language groups, as well as the importance of homonyms in communication, and how they help to make our writing more precise and efficient. Because homonyms have been around since the dawn of worded speech, we humans have used them in many different languages and cultures. The ancient Greeks, for example, used them, as did the Romans. Most languages, including English, employ homonyms. We can use such words to add humour and wit to our writing, as well as to distinguish different meanings. Here, I might refer back to the usage of ‘fanny’ we mentioned in our last post, Homonyms with Harmony, Part 2–American and British English Conventions … or, we could skip right past that bit of warped humour and look at another one I used for my Interludes books, where I deliberately misspelt ‘whet’ and used ‘wet’ for a fun pun and play on words in the slightly risqué tagline: A collection of short erotic fiction that will tickle more than your taste buds and wet [sic] more than your appetite. (Booklinker has stopped working, so instead of a universal link, here are the US and UK links in case it still isn’t working when you click on it. Sorry. I’ll do my best to find an alternative and change links on all my books as soon as I’m able.) She’s done great explanations that everyone can understand!
  5. Writers Helping Writers DESCRIPTION: Sages are wise, always seeking knowledge, but they also are willing to impart their learnings to others. This makes them ideal mentors and parental figures. FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Mother Abagail (The Stand), Merlin (The Once and Future King), Obi-Wan Kenobi (the Star Wars franchise), Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid), Mr. Keating (Dead Poets Society) COMMON STRENGTHS: Calm, Centered, Confident, Cooperative, Curious, Decisive, Disciplined, Discreet, Generous, Gentle, Honorable, Intelligent, Just, Kind, Loyal, Mature, Observant, Philosophical, Protective, Resourceful, Responsible, Spiritual, Studious, Talented, Uninhibited, Unselfish, Wise COMMON WEAKNESSES: ontrolling, Fussy, Know-It-All, Perfectionist, Possessive, Pushy, Worrywart ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
  6. Roberta Writes Mom, Michael and I flew to Cape Town on Thursday, 4 May. It is approximately a 2 hour flight and its the first time I’ve flow domestically since before Covid. I don’t dislike flying, I just prefer to make road trips and stop off in funny little downs and investigate them. The flight was fine and we arrived at 12pm as planned. After settling into our hotel, we went to the V&A Waterfront which is the old Cape Town Harbour. It is still a working harbour but has been glamourized and has a large shopping mall, an aquarium, art galleries, the beautiful Victoria and Alfred Hotel, and lots of restaurants and watering holes. These are a few of the pictures I took for Dan’s Thursday Doors:
  7. Angel Messages
  8. Fiction Favorites It was a rescue that police said had never been done before hanging off the edge of a Staten Island ferry boat. They were there because an emotionally disturbed man had inexplicably climbed out of the window onto a railing on the outside of the ship, seemingly ready to jump. Then, after trying to reason with the silent would-be jumper, Officer Gambino, who was roped to the boat from an anchor point above, moved like lightning to grab hold of the individual and press him up against the side of the boat. “Some people were in dry suits, and some were in rope harnesses in case he went into the water or stayed on the ferry,” said NYPD Emergency Service Unit Sgt. Darion Brooks. “We were prepared for both.” Brooks told ABC 7 news that this particular rescue strategy had never been attempted before but that the ESU trains for dozens of different situations, some of which have involved potential jumpers. The moment of arrest was captured in stunning detail by a news helicopter, and the man was transported to a hospital where he could receive psychiatric attention. That would’ve been something!
  9. Chris the Story Reading Ape In the realm of mystery writing, few elements hold as much power as a well-crafted setting. A thoughtfully developed and vividly described location captivates readers, luring them into the intricate web of your story while immersing them in an atmosphere that evokes intrigue and suspense. The foundation of an unforgettable mystery is laid not just through intriguing plot twists and complex characters but also by seamlessly integrating the story’s setting. The role of setting in a mystery transcends mere aesthetics or background detail. It serves as an essential component of the narrative, enhancing the plot, inspiring the characters’ actions, and eliciting emotion from the reader. 
  10. Rosie Amber Over the next few months I will be adding to my regular #SixOnSaturday posts with Sunday spots for fellow gardeners. I always look forward to Fred’s Saturday post as he grows some unusual plants and has lots of good gardening advice. It was Fred who inspired me to try growing ginger and last year’s plant was a great success. This year I have had to try harder to get a ginger growing, but hopefully it is now on it’s way. It was always my dream to create little areas of garden at my house. I wish I could’ve but physical limits confine me from doing so. I can watch others though and enjoy!
  11. Nail Your Novel When a message pops into your inbox and you think: I know that name. Didn’t I meet him years ago when I was speaking at a self-publishing conference? I did. And he was still writing and publishing, and building a body of work. His name is Harrison Hickman. He recently started a blog and asked to interview me. I love how writing is a long game. That years can pass, and a person you met on a creative afternoon pops out of the ether and says ‘Hi, I’m still here, I still do this. I’m working my groove, making my stuff. Let’s talk.’ Isn’t that wonderful?
  12. Life in the Realm of Fantasy Plot points and conflicts are driven by the characters who have critical knowledge. The fact that some characters are working with limited information creates tension. In literary terms, this uneven distribution of knowledge is called asymmetric information. We see this all the time in the corporate world. One party in a business transaction has more or superior information compared to another. That inequality of information gives them an edge against the competition. In a story, as in real life, a monopoly of information creates a crisis. An idle conversation will bore your reader to tears, so only discuss things that advance the plot. A conversation scene should be driven by the fact that one person has knowledge the others need. The reader must get answers simultaneously as the characters, gradually over the length of a novel. When I am writing a scene, I ask my characters three things: The first question I ask is: “What is the core of the problem?” In the case of one story that was begun several years ago and never taken beyond the first draft stage, the core of the problem is Jared, my main character. The story is set in the World of Neveyah, and one of the canon tropes of stories set in that world is that all mages are trained by and work for the Temple of Aeos.
  13. Books and Such Andrea Hannah’s Where Darkness Blooms is a supernatural thriller about an eerie town where the sunflowers whisper secrets and the land hungers for blood. The town of Bishop is known for exactly two things: recurring windstorms and an endless field of sunflowers that stretches farther than the eye can see. And women—missing women. So when three more women disappear one stormy night, no one in Bishop is surprised. The case is closed and their daughters are left in their dusty shared house with the shattered pieces of their lives. Until the wind kicks up a terrible secret at their mothers’ much-delayed memorial. I love creepy towns, I’ll give it a read.
  14. Writers in the Storm How do you, as a writer, capture your readers’ hearts and minds? With a spark that grabs the reader. No, that spark is not the first sentence, though it is important. The spark that grabs the reader is an inciting incident that ignites the reader’s imagination. Crafting the right inciting incident is crucial to laying the foundation for a can’t-stop-reading story. To create the best one for your story, you must understand what it is, why it’s a powerful piece of your story, and how to create one. What is an Inciting Incident? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to incite means to move to action,stir up,spur on,urge on. So far, so good. But there’s more to what an inciting incident is. Let’s look at what some writing experts say the inciting incident is. Kathryn Craft at Writer Unboxed says: “A story exists because something happens in a character’s life—the inciting incident—that upsets her equilibrium and arouses her desire to restore balance.” According to Sara Letourneau on DIYMFA it’s “the launching pad that thrusts a character into the conflict.”


I write YA as Traci Kenworth. I also write romance as Loleta Abi.

20 thoughts on “Does a Character’s Past Weigh Them Down? by Traci Kenworth

  1. I love character discussions, Traci, and I enjoyed your examples. Yes, backstory/their past is huge and like for real people, it flavors their present choices. Glad to hear you’re feeling better, and Happy House Hunting. Thanks for all the links!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, D.! I think the backstory/past really fills out a character and helps to make them more rounded. Oh, the pickings are slim on the houses so far but we’re hoping that turns around. You’re welcome for the links! Enjoy your week!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Teri. There were five houses on our list last week, that’s down to three. None of them fits our needs. One of them was a total nightmare! As in, it would inspire the setting of a horror novel. Hugs! Enjoy your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing my post. I think all characters must have baggage. That’s pretty standard. When we recycle someone else’s character, or an actual person, we have to fight what came before.


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