The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘writing backstory

Every writer struggles with how to deepen their characters; how to make them come alive on the page so the reader connects with the story’s protagonist.

Editor Jean Jenkins recently posted a link to the Writer Unboxed blog highlighting “6 Ways to Make Sure Your Reader’s Brain Syncs With Your Protagonist’s Brain.” Jenkins cited it as “One of the best posts lately on deepening your characters I’ve ever come across.”

Blogger Lisa Cron shares some interesting and worthwhile thoughts on how to dig deeper into your characters to show the reader what really makes your hero tick. Her post is worth reading. Be sure to take notes. I did.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden


If you ask a published novelist how to get published, he’ll share his secret–Write. “Keep your butt in the chair,” he says.

There is no magic to it. No coveted shortcut to crossing the street from under-published to in-print. Writing is the only true passage. But it’s a solitary journey. Fortunately, we loners can join others who share our writer’s path at conferences.

Along with some members from my writers’ group–Pageaday Writers–I attended the Southern California Writer’s Conference (& Retreat) this past weekend. I love the retreat part. From Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, I learned, learned, learned. Not just writing skills, techniques and tips, I learned about myself as a writer.


Me, Trish Wilkinson and Ondine Kuraoka, excited and worn out on the final day of the conference.

Throughout the weekend–as authors, editors, agents and friends offered valuable information–I discovered, rediscovered, understood and re-committed myself.

My brain, fired up with promise and challenge, was on overload by the end of the conference. I couldn’t possibly write about all the inspiration I found, but here are a few gems to give you a sense of the weekend…

Author Judy Reeves encouraged us to write from the senses. When you wake up, before you start your day, take note of sensory detail – how the blanket feels, the sounds outside your window, the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.

To make your work more powerful, Maralys Wills, author of “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead” instructed us “to end your sentences with the strongest word.”

Author Frederick Ramsay reminded us to approach each writing day expecting to be surprised.

Best-selling novelist T. Jefferson Parker cautioned us to notlet others steal your writing hours.

Editor Jean Jenkins turned a light on for me when, in her “Rewriting Novels” workshop, she simply said: “When going into flashbacks – one had to get in; one had to get out.”

Jean also offered the most truthful moment of the weekend for me, during a one-on-one critique. In response to my waves of self-doubt, she asked: “If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?” Her candid question hit me between the eyes with a truthfulness I hadn’t allowed myself. Writing is what I do. It is the core of who I am. Whether there’s a paycheck attached to the end of my project or not, I write. I see the world through words.

Thank you SCWC and Jean Jenkins, for helping me reaffirm my writing commitment. For sharing a roadmap, and adding a few more shades of color to my writing basket.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

“Any number of how-to books combined may not give a writer the one priceless bit of clarity that can make the difference between being published or not. Rejection by an editor or agent seldom yields the reason as to why a manuscript doesn’t grab them, and almost never reveals how it can be fixed to ensure that it ever will.

Founded and run by professional writers the SCWC provides veteran and emerging talent with authoritative guidance to help distinguish those manuscripts that are ready for market consideration, having facilitated nearly $4 million worth of first-time authors’ book and screen deals. With extended one-on-one evaluation of advance submissions and dozens of read & critique and practical information workshops to choose from, the SCWC is among the only conferences specifically tailored to empower writers of every level with the vital tools, networking and industry prowess needed to sell their work.”

–Southern California Writers’ Conference

As a novice novel writer, every day I discover how hard it is to weave an engaging story. For years I’ve enjoyed curling up with a book, ignorant of the work involved in good storytelling. I now savor the masterful way Robert B. Parker slides in a quick fact about Boston in his Spenser series novels without slowing down the story. Or how an 11-year-old snapshot stuck on a refrigerator door illustrates the pain of loss for a young wife and mother in Jodi Picoult’s novel A Change of Heart. I’m always impressed with the way Janet Evanovich reintroduces reoccurring characters in her Stephanie Plum novels without weighing down the reader with excess facts.

“Creating characters’ backstories before you start writing is crucial,” says Rachel Ballon author of Breathing Life Into Your Characters, “because you’ll want to determine each one’s past experiences and the repercussions these experiences will have on your story before you begin.” I’m really good at this part. I write page after page of character history. With great ease, my protagonist’s fun facts, broken dreams and unresolved conflicts pour out of my fingertips.

It’s gets a bit trickier when I have to trim my endless “tell” and trust my readers to get the picture through my “show.” I’ve become pretty successful in building story scaffolding. But once constructed, I’m reluctant to take the support beams off and trust my edifice to it’s own solid foundation.

I’m using all the arrows in my writer’s quiver — dialogue, narration, thoughts, scene setting, description and flashbacks to layer in important facts. I hope to nestle them in throughout the pages, so that the reader feels she’s uncovering tiny treasures along the way, waiting for the payoff – all the facts coming together in a satisfying climax.

Thanks to the patience of my fellow Pageadaywriters, especially Trish, I’ve improved at writing backstory and I’ve even gotten better at knowing when to delete it. Every day, every page, I’m sharpening my writer’s arrows and learning I don’t have to shoot them all at the same time.

Claire Yezbak Fadden

Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!