Backstory Battles




I’ve decided to place my children’s writing on the back burner for now and try my hand at creating a historical fiction novel. It’s my all-time favourite reading genre since I discovered Thomas B. Costain way back in high school. It’s turned out to be quite a challenge for me. I’ve rewritten the story at least three times since I started last year. Of course this means my other writing projects have to wait—I’m not the type of writer who can work on different projects at the same time.

My biggest hurdle is the dreaded backstory—the historical background as well as the character’s life history—both necessary ingredients in historical fiction, but not something you want to bore your readers with. You have to be careful to weave it into your plot without distancing the reader from the characters and their conflicts. I usually write up a detailed character backstory, which sometimes ends up longer than the story itself. This was often included in classic novels, but today’s readers don’t have the patience for all that detailed background. So I’m always left with tons of character backstory, which never appear, in my stories. I end up feeling sorry for those characters I’ve gotten to know so intimately and whose stories will never be known—who said writers don’t lean toward the strange side?

So … I’ve decided to pull out a few of my favourite characters’ backstories out of obscurity and present them on the blog. Maybe you’ll meet up with them in my writing. I usually find a suitable picture on Google and work from there, but I won’t be posting those on the blog since I’m allergic to copyright fines. My next post will be about Paul: (tall, dark, loyal, and fiercely independent), a strong Quebec lumberjack who refuses to fight for an English king.


About Murielle Cyr

Writer, organic gardener, soapmaker, listener.
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23 Responses to Backstory Battles

  1. olganm says:

    It sounds like a good idea. Some authors offer them to readers who sign for their newsletter as freebies…

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thanks Olga.Sending a newsletter would be too structured for me–although I could do with a bit of that, but it does make more promotional sense. This way,though, I can post when it suits me, and I don’t litter my followers’ inbox.By the way,I love the graphics on your new blog. Now all I have to do is learn Spanish. Be well.

  2. With the authors I’ve worked with, I recommend they provide snippets from their books that never made it into the book. Extended or deleted scenes can be quite popular with readers. I’m a character-driven reader so I love knowing more about the characters I’ve fallen in love with. Also by putting all that research you’ve done on the blog is a great way to save time and continue to provide new content to your site.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thanks, Donna, for the deleted scene tip. I never thought of recycling them, they usually land in my trash bin.

  3. I find if you write the characters and the story first, the backstory just starts to bubble up all on its own and feels less like a “history lesson” and more like an organic accessory to the plot 🙂 Good luck. I love the genre.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thank you, Victoria. I’m anxious to see that ‘bubbling’ start. Actually, I experienced bubbling in a batch of soap I messed up this weekend. Spontaneous bubbling (more like an explosion) in soapmaking is a disaster, though.But I do look forward to see my writing come to a full boil.

  4. Really great idea. The time between your books (for a fan like myself) always seems too long. That way you can give your readers something to bridge the gap and trim the books at the same time for those who want it that way. 🙂

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Christoph. I’m such a snail writer compared to you, but I’ll get there. You’ve been my inspiration from the time I first read LUCK OF THE WEISS…

  5. Stef says:

    Hey Murielle! So good to see you’re about to write novels of another genre! It’s so brave to get out of our own confort zone and try something different.
    Keep us posted, the background search is always the toughest part while creating the plot and the settings. Good luck with that, I’m sure you’ll be brilliant!

  6. It’s a good idea to share your characters’ histories with your readers. You could even make them into short stories.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thanks, Susanne. Maybe I’ll save all those deleted scenes for that. Good luck with yours. I always enjoy your images on twitter.

  7. blakelybennett says:

    It sounds intriguing. My husband does historical fiction and my latest novel was as well but only back to the 80s though.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      I admit that I’m finding reading historical fiction easier than writing it. I came upon a post on Google that compares the act of writing with having homework every day, and I have to agree with that.

  8. As a historian (albeit a military one) I find there is so much to go in depth on while developing accurate- original characters. Thank God others enjoy history as much.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      History is what has made us who we are.Remembering what has come before us can only illuminate our journey.

  9. emarxbooks says:

    I love historical fiction and you’re right it’s a delicate balance. I’ve written one book in that category and I spent so much time on it. I think it’s an awesome idea to use all that backstory info to get readers excited about the book. Can’t wait to read about them.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Can’t wait to get them out of the closet and air them out. Take care.

    • Murielle Cyr says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I’m aiming to post part one next Monday. I’m in love with that character, so I took my time to mould him just the way I like him. I had a hard time giving him any faults at all.

  10. @ChadSchimke says:

    It’s easy to get bogged down in research when it comes to historical fiction. Nice insight!

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