Tag Archive for: Character Arc

Working Through It: Motivation in Backstory

By Kimberly Jayne

The last three
months, I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck on Survivor.
I don’t know about you, but from my perspective, with the election won by the
most disagreeable guy on the island (who should have been easily voted off)—and
a death in my family—I’ve been grieving. And it’s affected my writing.

But like everything
else that tests my sanity, I’m confident this too shall pass. It’s worth noting,
though, that when the Fates point our heads in one direction, their sleights of
hand point us in another without our recognizing it until after the fact.

Case in point…
Instead of actually writing, I’ve had a lot of time to think—some of it even
deliberately. While I’m not able to boast productivity in word counts, I am
able to count lots of behind-the-scenes progress on premise, backstory,
character motivation, truths, lies, and arc.
In my dark fantasy, the mystery
aspect of the plot concerns where the protagonist comes from and the secret nature
of her existence, which informs the trajectory of her arc and will ultimately
make an enormous impact on her world. Shocking, actually. Some of this was
already sketched out but just vague enough to roadblock my forward momentum.

So, back to thinking,
or rather, creative hashing out. For the story engine, the “why”
aspect of the character’s motivation is the jet fuel that can turn a book into
a page-turner—or a disorganized snoozefest, if you’re always running on empty.
It’s also the kind of epic behind-the-scenes battle that writers frequently
avoid because it’s just not easy. And until writers resolve these “why”
elements, they’ll torture themselves with “how it should all go—this way,
not that way—wait, that other way, because what if…” until it’s perfect. Until
it’s perfect, procrastination is the well-spring of writer’s block.

So while I’ve been
alternately moping and becoming a better activist, my brain has been
percolating on “why” story elements that are making my book
better—far better. I didn’t realize the extent of this percolation until a
series of light-bulb moments culminated in giddy, hand-rubbing, Mr. Hyde-like
And all it took was staring off in deep thought, scribbling notes
on napkins, texting plot fragments to myself, talking it out with my cats, and forcing
a series of writing sessions where my progress was measured by how many minutes
my butt stayed in my chair. Of course, it helps to have writing buddies who
will brainstorm and pro-and-con ideas with me.

What all this means
is that I’ve created a stronger spine on which to hang my story. I know the
truths, and I know the lies. And now I have to wield them with precision. I’m
beginning to enjoy the writing again and celebrate the return of a terrific
adventure I enjoy diving into in each day—in a place where I can ignore all the
hijinks happening on the island.


Kimberly Jayne writes humor, romantic comedy, suspense, erotica, and dark fantasy. Her latest foray into a dark fantasy released in episodes is as much an adventure as the writing itself. You can check her out on Amazon. Find out more about her at ReadKimberly.

Books by Kimberly Jayne:

Take My Husband, Please: An Unconventional Romantic ComedyDemonesse: Avarus, Episode 1
Demonesse: Avarus, Episode 2
Demonesse: Avarus, Episode 3
All the Innuendo, Half the Fact: Reflections of a Fragrant Liar