The Importance of Backstory and Character Development

6:53 PM


Today's post is going to be brief. I'm knee deep in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I've been struggling to write due to a busy life and work schedule in addition to not having my plot planned out enough. This weekend, a group of college friends visited me and my roommate. It's always fun to hang out with my friends because I don't get to see them often as we all live in different cities. Unfortunately, house guests meant that I didn't get any writing done. However, this doesn't mean that my writing brain was completely idle this weekend.

On Saturday, my friends and I went to see the new superhero movie Doctor Strange in theaters. As I was watching the movie, I found myself analyzing the storyline and comparing it to the typical plot structure of a novel. Movies and novels both tend to follow the same plot patterns after all. While Doctor Strange has some great examples of showing the status quo, inciting incident, lock-in and other important plot points, I found the plot points didn't mesh well with the characters' development.

Overall, I found the character development to be lacking in Doctor Strange. The characters' backstories and motivations are barely mentioned, and I didn't connect emotionally with any of the characters. For example, instead of showing the audience a scene in which a character loses all of his family members (which drives the character to chase immortality), another character simply tells the main character that this other character lost all of his family members. We, the audience, are never introduced to the character's family members, so we feel no real sorrow at their deaths and consequently form no emotional connection with the character. The rest of the movie relies on the viewer to simply accept that the character is seeking immortality because these deaths affected him so much. Ultimately, it was hard for me to buy into characters' decisions and actions in this movie because the characters lacked development, particularly in the beginning. Watching Doctor Strange reminded me that novels can have a good plot, but many readers will be turned off from the story if the author doesn't take the time to fully develop a character's history and motivations.

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