Character Development & Backstory

This is the third post on backstory. The first is Backstory. The second is What is Backstory.


A character’s past, DNA, or backstory, will have an affect on who a character is.

In Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series, Steel Brightblade is Sturm Brightblade and Kitiara Uth Matar’s son.

Kitiara Uth Matar is a dragon lord for the Goddess of Darkness, Takhisis.

Sturm Brightblade is a knight of the Order of the Rose and serves Paladine, the God of Light.

Like his mother, Steel Brightblade, wants to serve the Goddess of Darkness. Only his father’s DNA continually interferes with his temperament.

Steel is a soldier in Takhisis’ army, which is conquering its way across the country Kayolin. He tries to obey his commander’s orders. He wants to please his goddess. But he doesn’t fully grasp the concept of evil.

A war rages within Steel’s personality between his father’s  honor and goodness, and his mother’s lust for power and predisposition towards evil.

Steel Brightblade is a three-dimensional character. He is at odds with himself. Steel must decide if he wants to serve the Dark Goddess or become a man of honor. It’s this push and pull on his personality that creates an interesting character. Steel is a sympathetic character and is someone Readers want to get to know. They want to keep reading to find out what happens to him. Will he turn to evil or good?

Not all characters in a story need be so complicated.

Draconians are lizard men created from dragon eggs. They serve Takhisis and possess no redeeming qualities. They serve their goddess and will destroy everything and everyone with no regrets.

Tassehoff Burrfoot is a kinder. Kenders are perpetually optimistic, always happy and have limited attention spans. Everything is exciting to them from finding a sparkly trinket to exploring the underworld.

Characters like draconians and kenders are necessary to the plot of a story. The actions of the lizard men provide real danger for the heroes of Dragonlance. They provide tension to the story and help move the plot along. While Tassehoff is a hero, he is also a humorous character. His queerly personality eases the tension of a stressful scene.

While important, Tass and draconians are two-dimensions characters. Readers know who they are and know what to expect from them. They offer few surprises.

When creating your characters, you need two-dimensional characters who have a purpose and place in the plot, but your main characters need to be more engaging. Like real people who have different layers within their personalities, so do three-dimensional characters.