Backstory…It’s a Disease, I Tell You

One thing I cant help but do, upon discovering a character that intrigues me, whether in a book or video game or whatever, is start thinking about their backstory. Where did they come from? What was their life like before the beginning of the story they’re in when I come across them? What in their life prepared them for the role they play in that story? Why are they doing whatever it is that makes them central to the plot?

This is all, of course, an AWESOME habit for me, the would-be writer. All dealing with character motivations…dealing with events thar shape the main plot…why someone would (hopefully logically) do whatever it is they do in my story. So I often indulge myself, creating these stories, adding bits and pieces here and there, filling out a character if I can. I like playing around in another writer’s sandbox; they do all the hard work creating a world, I just add my own little piece to it. Don’t knock it…I’d guess that fully HALF of the licensed Star Wars novels in print started out as backstory fanfic musings about a very minor character. Heck, even the Cantina bartender had a novel written about his story!

 

"When we get to that dang safehouse, I'm mixin' me up a batch o' granpappy's world-famous mint juleps."

There’s Colonel William Henry Beauregard III, known as “Bill” in the Left 4 Dead video game. He was Special Forces back in ‘Nam, so he knows weapons, even saw some spooky stuff there (Asian vampire myth come to life…later, early experiments on the disease that eventually creates the zombies) so he knows not to discount the strange or deny the unbelievable. When the Zombie Apocalypse came, he didn’t try to deny it, just prepared himself, stocking up on weapons & such. He’d been married, but she died a few years back…childless, there’ll be no W. H. Beauregard IV (but also no tragedy about family turned to walking dead). A natural leader, he gathers together the other three survivors–Louis, Zoey, Francis–and they all make it to safety together. Oh, and he’s from the South, not a heavy accent like the first WHB, a Confederate colonel…the only reason for THAT is because it’s fun to say “Ah believe Ah shall retiah to the veran-dah and have cee-gahs and mint juleps with Colonel Bow-re-gahd” in a hokey Southern accent. Go ahead, try it…see, fun!

A friend once posted on Facebook about your made-up names, including your Star Wars name: first 3 letters of last name, first 2 of middle name, first 2 of first, last 3 of last. Mine works out to be “Dunpa Jounn”…so, of course, he gets a backstory too. Born on Alderaan, he had a pretty normal life in the Galactic Empire for a time. He had a good job as a transport/cargo pilot, traveling mostly in the Inner Systems. He liked to sightsee and he has holos of him on various settled worlds, smiling at the camera, which he shared with his wife and young son (toddler age) back home on Alderaan. After Darth blows up the planet with the Death Star, he doesn’t do much smiling anymore; he was off-world running a shipment so he loses his family. He grimly set his affairs in order, avoiding the clusters of fellow refugees scattered throughout the Galaxy, and soon joined the Rebellion, making use of his skills as a transport pilot (he’s no Luke…but he’s a deft hand at the controls of a “big rig”). He pilots one of the transports that break away from Hoth when the Empire discovers the Rebel base there.

See, that's Dunpa...second from the left. No, wait...

During the assault on Endor to destroy the second Death Star (and oh yeah, he wants revenge so bad he can taste it!), Dunpa pilots one of the supply/refueler transports (logistics…its vital to warfare just as much as battlecruisers and X-wings) in the first wave of the attack, led by Lando Calrissian. Only his skills keep the transport & crew alive against swarms of TIE fighters until the Millennium Falcon destroys the Death Star II. No Force powers or lightsabers for him…he’s not even that good with a blaster. Finally, his quest for revenge over, he can start living his life again, maybe even acknowledge his feelings for Sas Lomasso, co-pilot & gunner on his transport during Battle of Endor (they first met during the escape from Hoth). She loves him, too, of course…cue the end title music, happy endings all around.

Backstories are fun. It’s a great creative exercise, thinking up anecdotes and episodes of other “lives” sparked by a story in my head. One trick is involving them in the main story while resisting the urge to make them as important–or more so, you should see some of the silliness going on in fanfic!–as the main characters. I’m definitely going to keep doing it, so watch this space. Oh, and bonus points if you figured out whose SW name is “Sas Lomasso” 😉

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