Friday, June 10, 2011

Origin Stories: How Do You Do It?

So I saw this movie yesterday. It is called X-MEN First Class.

Maybe you've heard of it. Maybe.

Anyway, the cast was amazing. Particularly these two gentlemen:

James McAvoy (Professor X) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto)

What I really enjoyed about their performances was that, in the back of my mind, I kept remembering Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the actors who play these characters "in the future". And all the while, I kept telling myself, "I can totally see these two growing up to become those other two." 

In other words, their backstories were great, but the way they interpreted how those backstories make them the men they will become was flawless.

So I got to thinking: how do you do it? Does a character's backstory come first, or is the character's future much clearer to you during the brainstorming process? 

Also, go see X-MEN First Class. Even if you hate superhero movies. It's just that good. :)


  1. Awesome post! I cannot wait to see this movie (but have to wait for a babysitter and the stars to align). :)

    Back story usually comes to me while I'm writing their current actions because people use the past to process their present. That's how I "discover" who they are and how they got there. But it's a hazardous process as far as plotting goes. I'd love to see what your other commenters say so I can try something new.

  2. I usually write backstory first. I don't include most of it, but for me it helps to figure out why they act certain ways.

  3. Katrina--I'm pretty much like you. Backstory comes to me while I'm writing what the characters are going through while I'm writing. Sometimes it's a blast to imagine the "what happened?" as you're focused on the "what is happening?" :)

    Bekah--I've ALWAYS wanted to try this, but alas. I suck. *sigh* Maybe I can convince myself to do it for a future WIP as an exercise. *crosses fingers*

  4. As I'm a panster - my characters evolve in a very organic way - a little bit of backstory maybe per character but all is very flexible in the brainstorming process!!

    Take care x

  5. I do it the same way as Katrina and Kitty. Though sometimes I'll stop and write a character sketch as a side project during drafting or revision, when I need to get deeper into a character to work out a particular scene.

    I know there are people who are the opposite, though: they don't write a word of the story until they've thoroughly fleshed out their characters.

  6. Ooh, great question! I think I always have a clear endpoint for my characters, and I make up their "origin" stories as I go along. I like to learn about their backgrounds the same time as my readers. :)

  7. I absolutely LOVED X-Men First Class. As to you question, I once wrote a whole novel without exploring the backstory of key characters. I later discovered the lack of depth that novel had. So in the rewriting process, I've been writing some scenes to explore the backstory--how my characters (who are teens in the novel) would have handled certain situations when they were much younger, and how their actions made them to people they are today (in my novel).

  8. Love this post...I am dying to see this one. My list of must see movies keeps growing!

  9. The hubs and I actually went and saw this together and I kept thinking the same thing you did- I really enjoyed it!

  10. THANK YOU, everyone!!

    The movie definitely lived up to the hype, and as I mentioned in the post, the characterization was SPOT ON.

    Jennifer--That method sounds awesome! Haven't tried scribbling side notes like that, but I might as well start.

    Pam--Yep. Making up the stories is WAY easier for me :) Glad to know I'm not the only one who likes this!

    LinWash--I had the same problem as you on a WIP! Depth is really hard to pull off during a first draft, and I had to stop and ask myself who these people truly were (several times).

    Renae--GO SEE THIS MOVIE. That is all :)

    Creepy Query Girl--YAY! It's hard to not love something that rocks so hard, isn't it? ;)