Backstory tips and collections

Jerion 'Wyverntamer' Kràl

Moderator/Wight Tamer of Wyverns
Mallius Odium
Immemorial
Cat Adopter
Ageless
OG 2020
Grim Scribe
Vampire Scholar
Apr 16, 2020
62
90
93
21
I like writing backstories, I like reading backstories as well. So, I thought that this would be a good thread, a collection of tips you can give for writing backstories, as well as a collection of backstories for other games.

One thing I always do, that is a double-edged sword at times, is method acting to write my character's backstory. I immerse myself in the character, this gives me a good idea of what my character would be like, or, going the other way around, gives me a good idea of what could have shaped my character to be like that.

Another thing I do is variating my styles of writing, to avoid burning out on writing the backstory (I have a short attention span, okay?). This is not a problem if I work through a backstory in one sitting, but if I work on the backstory multiple times, I introduce some variation so that I keep engaged with it.

A couple of my backstories I have written for different games:
Very disturbing story featuring an abusive relationship and self-mutilation
Blake was running, a nice way to relax when her boyfriend got too controlling. “Man, sometimes I just wish that I could go… away, just away from everything.”

A step was heard behind her, the creaking of an abandoned house’s door, and the crunching of autumn leaves. “That can be done, my dear.”

As she turned around, she saw a handsome face, angular, with almost glowing eyes, leaning over her. “So do you accept little one?”

She said yes.
---
It was a whirlwind that deposited her at the front of his house, a large manor that he seemed all too willing to lead her through.

“This must cost a lot to keep clean.” An observation made by Blake that he dismissed, saying that his servants were all too willing to keep the house clean, even though the manor seemed to be empty for the hours that they explored it.

He reached around her and pulled her closer, kissing her, to which she put up a superficial resistance, before giving in. “I shouldn’t, I have a boy-” was as far as she got before he muffled her with a kiss.
---
She looked at her and her boyfriend ex’s room. She was just getting some of her things, while her boyfriend tried to stop her. “Stop Š̸̡̖̭͇̘̼̿̾̆̆̀̽͘͝͝ả̸̝͓͙͂͋̌́͊̌̒͆̚ŕ̶̢̘̱̮̥̮͍a̸̬͍̹̹̯̖̠̥̥̐̎̑͗̑̈́̕͝, this isn’t what you want! I know I can sometimes be a –”

She stopped hearing what he said as she slammed the door in his face, only to see her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝s̵̨͖̫̖̳͍̟̼͍̩̽͆̇̽̀́̚̕ͅt̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ new partner standing there. That was right, he had come to help her get away if it was needed.

Suddenly, the door slammed open, and Blake looked and she saw her ex standing there, looking at her in horror as she grabbed the knife from her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝s̵̨͖̫̖̳͍̟̼͍̩̽͆̇̽̀́̚̕ͅt̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ partner and flung it at him. It missed, but her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝s̵̨͖̫̖̳͍̟̼͍̩̽͆̇̽̀́̚̕ͅt̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ partner laughed and then there were autumn leaves in spring and it engulfed her and she knew no more.
---
She stood in his living room and looked around, her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝s̵̨͖̫̖̳͍̟̼͍̩̽͆̇̽̀́̚̕ͅt̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ partner wanted her for something, but hadn’t said what, hopefully it was a nice surprise, unlike last time. Sometimes, Blake forgot things after the surprises he gave her and sometimes she hurt, but she always knew that she had enjoyed their time together.

“Hello, little one.” His voice was smooth and she looked behind her. He always managed to sneak up on her, it was always fun to try to figure out how he did that.

“Hello love, what is the surprise you had planned for today?” He chuckled at her impatience, before leading her outside.

“Today, we are going on a trip.” As they travelled through the hall that seemed longer every second before suddenly they were at the end of the hallway Had they crossed the distance in a snap? Did the distance close itself?, he opened the door for her.

She could have sworn that his manor-castle was in the city, but apparently it was outside it. Whatever, it wasn’t important, she was going on a trip with her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝s̵̨͖̫̖̳͍̟̼͍̩̽͆̇̽̀́̚̕ͅt̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ partner.
---
“So, where are we going?” She turned around to look at him, from where she was riding on a horse in front of him when did she learn to ride a horse? She was allergic to them!.

“Always so impatient.” He chuckled, before pointing forwards, to a hill she had missed before. “That is our goal, shall we race each other there?”

And off he raced, easily keeping up with her horse, because he was awesome like that, even when her horse was going at full speed, he kept up as though it was a simple walk for him.

“Ah, now that we are here, why don’t I release you-”
---

As she was walking down the stairs, she was looking at the servants, they were always funny to look at, trying to look human even though they so obviously weren’t.

“Ah, you can see them?” She spun around, again, her m̷̗̦̯͓̥͕̞̪̅̾̉̿̊͛̋̀̍̈̕ą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝st̷̳̹̀̎e̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ partṋ̷̟̙̟̪͕̫̪̼̮̲͎̖̤͌̒̎̋̀͝͠er snuck up on her.

Of course she could, they were as human as she was! He laughed at her observation, before kissing her again.

She liked kissing him, but she always felt empty afterwards, a feeling that improved when she was kissing him, so she did it some more.

With a laugh, he pushed her away, before leaning over her. “I do not know if I have said it today, but you have such beautiful eyes. I could just keep them for myself.”

She looked up at him, he was her mą̶̖̺̗͎̳̗͇͍̐͐͛̄̽̅̋̃͒͂̈́̈́̕͠͝ste̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ p̵̨̨̡̢̛̳̼͕͓̫̻̦̳̖̥͐́̎̽̋̑̃̄͂͊̓͝arţ̵͓̲̗͇̱̘͎̠̱̻̈͌̇̀̐͆͆́̾̿̀͠n̵̝̫̺͖̪͙͕̝̖͓̰̥̾̌e̷̢̛͊̊́̊̔̂̔̅̄͛͘r, so she should help him as she could… right? She did not remember what she was supposed to do to someone she was in love with.
---
He had asked if she wanted to do something for her. Of course she would obey her maste̸̜̤̭͈̪̱͕̥̳͙̿̂͂͌̓̏͋͑̊͑̃͘͜͠ȑ̸̩̊͌̃͊̈̂̋̚ p̵̨̨̡̢̛̳̼͕͓̫̻̦̳̖̥͐́̎̽̋̑̃̄͂͊̓͝á̷̙̺̙̭̩̭̖̣͚̼̭̼͇̑̽̉̉̀́̈́̂̌͋̋̊̀͝r̷̛̼̙̙̮̪̗̲̮͆̒̃͘ţ̵͓̲̗͇̱̘͎̠̱̻̈͌̇̀̐͆͆́̾̿̀͠n̵̝̫̺͖̪͙͕̝̖͓̰̥̾̌er, it was what she was supposed to do.

So she took the knife he gave her, and walked to the other Lord’s castle. She entered, stating that she had a gift, and when she was close, she did what he always did and melted away into the shadows, so that she could hide her gift.

She hid her gift in him, it was genius. It was the last place that the other lord would search, his heart was a really good hiding place for the iron dagger he had given her for that lord.
---
Her master p̴̨͇̩͇̣̖̲̜̬̘̮̘̝̼͑͂̄͛̈́̇̇͆̌̑̔̈́̇̇͛͜a̸̙̬͎͕̟͈͖̺͗̋̇́̐̚r̶̜͉͑̀̒̏͗̇̌̄̍̍̀͠ţ̶̛̹̜͍̖͖͈̪̙̄n̶̰̼̾̆́̽̿͒͌̓͆͑̕͠è̵͖̣̹͈͍̻͓̺̩͇̜̈́͒̽̅͗̈́͌̐͗̋͑͂̕͠ͅr̷̢̺̣̥̮̹̪̀̑̋̊͑̀͊̈́̕̚͘ had asked for her eyes before, right? As she stood in his kitchen, she watched him make something to eat, and asked one of the servants for a spoon.

He had said he wanted her eyes…

She took the spoon and began to carve.
---
Master gave her something! She could still see! He only took her eyes, not her sight!

She had gone on more hiding missions for him as well, and he gave her something every time. It was comforting, to feel the darkness coiling around inside her now. It was cold, but mostly, it was nice.

She was going to have to go on more missions for Master, as it was a good reward.
---
An urn had appeared, a strange text floating underneath it as she looked at it.

It was almost as though it was drawing her to it.
---
Master had said he liked her guts on the last mission.

She asked one of the servants for a spoon…
---
She looked at the boy she was currently with, she hated that she’d have to hide another thing in him, as he was doing to her now, but he was planning to escape from Master.

She couldn’t have that.
---
She was outside, that was always dangerous. Since she was hollow, she could just hide in the shadows, bring Master’s delightful darkness out, and look around.

She found that Master’s castle was slightly less impressive than it used to be.
---
She found something. It was in an urn so she was not supposed to look in it.

She did not look in it, but it resonated with her.
---
Master said that her skin was so beautiful, so nice and pale and flawless. She couldn’t let him see her flaws.

A spoon was thrust into her hands and she began.
---
Another strangely familiar urn had appeared in the hallway, she had to resist it.

It was difficult, but then, Master was there and he was praising her. It felt so nice that she got praised, she hugged him.

He slapped her away, but she didn’t blame him. He was busy doing very important things, so she would wait until he had some time for her. Then they could kiss like they used to.
---
The urns called to her.

She had managed to decipher the title of the first urn.

Judgement.
---
She looked inside.

There were two beautiful eyes in it.
---
Master asked her to check whether she was entirely empty.

It turns out, there were a bit of her guts still stuck inside.
---
The next urn was titled Courage.

She didn’t look inside.
---
Master was angry at her, she did not know what she had done, but she must have done something.

Master would not be angry at her without reason.

She did not want to be near him when he was angry at her.

She hid in the garden to avoid him until he was no longer angry at her.
---
She stayed too long, the garden was now in winter, instead of in autumn.

The beautiful crunchy leaves were gone.

She ran back to the house, afraid of what the change could mean.
---
She did not find anyone in the house, but the urns called to her.

She grabbed the lid of the third one.

It was titled Identity.
---
There were pieces of flawed skin in it.

She did not like it.
---
She looked to the other urns.

She was going to grab it.
---
She could only carry one.

She grabbed the one she thought more important.

Those eyes were pretty,
---
She ate them. The pretty, pretty eyes, and now she could not look at them anymore.

Out of shame, she hid, until a gardener came.

She glared at him until he ran. At least they were still properly afraid of her.
---
Master was angry at her. He grabbed her and threw her around. She didn’t want him to be angry at her.

Master did not like her begging.

“Please, Master! What did I do?” It got no results.
---
Master was taking her somewhere. It was like the old days! She was going with him again! There were words for it, but that wasn’t important! She was with him again!

She turned around on her horse, to see him frowning at her. That made her sad. She did not like that.

Then he was smiling at her again and she was happy again.

A kiss, and she was in bliss.

Then, he stepped away.

“Master?” He glared at her, kicked at her face, and turned.

“Master? Master! MASTER!!! Please don’t leave me Master… I need you Master.”

But no matter how she begged, he did not return.
---
She turned in the direction she was sure he went. She started running.

Something ripped at her, she left things behind, but not her master’s gift.
---
She knew she had a master, but who was that?

She knew she was scary, so maybe her master was also scary?
---
She decided she needed a name. Every other person she saw was using one. Even if they looked like humans, while she had holes in her skin, her eyes, and her body. It was filled by darkness.

Maybe, her name needed something to do with darkness? She got a good feeling from that.

It was decided! Her name would be Umbra.

A click in the Dream.
---
She looked at the people sitting before her, they were like her. They weren’t seen by the humans as different, but she could see them be that.

They were also very intimidating.

“So, you are saying that he never cared?”

“Yes, though it may be difficult to realize, he never cared for you. We do.” The middle one of the three spoke. She liked the colours they wore, it reminded her autumn.
The above story also kinda sent me off into a bad place, which is what I meant with method acting being a double edged sword.

This story shows how I, over multiple days, feature differing writing styles to keep myself interested in writing the story. Also, a bit lighter of a story, to keep myself from becoming too depressed.
Explanation of terms: Side = The Supernatural world, kept apart from the normal world by a massive glamour spelled over the entire world, creatively called 'The Glamour'.




“Born on a new moon, a stormy night,

one such as this child… They will not live without strive.”


Prophecy of the chosen one #234089 many


So… That’s a thing. Apparently it applies to me, even though there are so many who also were born that night.


Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

As the prophecy of the chosen many states, I was born on a stormy night lit only by the stars. What it doesn’t state is that I was born on a graveyard, something to do with my mother visiting the graveyard for comfort or something like that.
---
Report #07: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Patient Lee has written in the diary I had given her in the last session, and allowed me to read it.

It seems to be written in an autobiographical style, though the accuracy with what is on record in her health records is low to non-existent.
Psychologist Z

---
I grew up there, though we had a house across the street from the graveyard, I was almost never in it. I was taught by a pair of elderly teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Edmunds, who had taught primary school, and after that by Ms. Iris, who had taught both middle and high school.

I played with the tragic Little Tim for most of my childhood. He had died been in a car accident and was terribly afraid of cars due to that.
---
Report #15: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Patient Lee’s recording of her life has taken a troubling turn as we get to her teen years, referencing many people who, according to public record, were dead at the time, including several she had never met. It is possible this is due to the loss of her mother, who was interned on the graveyard her memories seem to revolve around.

Lee’s previous writing referenced the Little Tim character as well, records turned up from a Tom living in her area who went to the same school as she did, possibly misremembering his name? He died about a year before this is supposed to have happened. Possibly works through trauma by pretending to see ghosts?
Psychologist Z

---
It after that, that I noticed I was the only one who could actually speak to the ghosts. So I started asking why they were still there. Little Tim wanted to go outside of the city. It was a long walk, but when he was outside of it, I found that he was fading away, I begged him not to go, but having fulfilled his last wish, he left.

I was found by Zike, he told me about the supernatural world, and that, now that they were certain I could look past the Glamour hiding it. I was to be drawn into it fully. I resisted, and, using what I knew of how Little Tim used to hide, I snuck away from him, back to the graveyard.

There, I asked the others whether they wanted to stay or move on. Mr. and Mrs. Edmunds were loving and said that once I would move out, they’d move on, they wanted to see a grandchild grow up. Ms. Iris just wanted me to complete my education. Three years in hiding, I lived on that graveyard.
---
Report #19: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Patient Lee has been showing signs of distress lately, fearing that ‘Zike’ would come find her. Her last diary entry showed me exactly who he was, and what he probably represented. The outside world. The world outside her bubble is, to her, personified in the character of Zike, and she does not want to be dragged out of her delusions.

Her delusions are mostly harmless, though we haven’t yet spoken of the incident that landed her in police custody.
Psychologist Z

---
Those three years were fraught with harrowing happenings. As I got more immersed with the supernatural side of the city (simply called ‘the Side’) that Zike wanted to introduce me too, I noticed that my appearance changed. The mirror stopped showing just a pale girl, and, as I went through what seemed like a delayed puberty, I grew up into some sort of white devilish girl.

To normal people, I appeared as I used to, verified easily by walking outside, but to those who could see I was supernatural, I was obvious. Several times I had to rush through checkout and hide when doing groceries because people were making threatening motions that were hidden behind the Glamour.

Eventually I got used to carrying around a rapier, that I’d found in the mansion that was hidden behind the graveyard, and a nice compound bow I had bought and decorated. I would hide it as cosplaying to the normals, but the awakened would know that I was prepared for a fight.
---
Report #27: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Patient Lee woke up screaming last night, and her diary has shown a worrying tendency to expect the worst from everyone, including the normals she mentioned not thinking much of. She has shown an insight into people’s hidden motivations that is worrying and her hallucinations show it to her as having those people look like monsters.

The patient is not to be released into the world, she has to be contained, her preparations and her willingness to ‘defend’ herself from those she deems threats show how easily she can be dangerously violent.

Psychologist Z

---
I was eventually caught outside by a group of humans who made me out to be some sort of demon. I recognized Zike standing in the mob, looking at me disappointedly. It enraged me, but I kept from attacking him. I got away without having to fire a shot or stab someone, but it took a long time before I lost them all.

Eventually I followed Zike to a café where he was greeted with people calling out for a Spike, apparently he was known as Spike Zerre, known recruiter for a human supremist group in the Side.

Word got out about him approaching people who did not know about the supernatural to give them their first taste of it in his own way. By way of me informing a bar patron who had had a bit too much to drink for his own good. Zerre wasn’t so well-liked by the non-human residents of the Side. No one was surprised when he was found in an alley with an arrow through his throat after he accosted me with a couple of his friends.

I don’t know why they thought he was killed by me though.
---
Report #31: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Patient is unstable and should be put down

Psychologist Z
---
Report #32: Patient #12: Zoey Lee

Lee escaped custody today. Someone must have alerted her to the truth of this facility.

Supreme Ruler of the Humanity of the Side,

Zerre Lee


So, what are your tips for writing backstories, and do you have stories wherein you use them?
 
Last edited:
  • Winner
Reactions: derula

derula

#TeamWraith
Risen
Immemorial
Ageless
OG 2020
Grim Scribe
Eternal Champion
Vampire Scholar
Feb 21, 2018
160
214
118
One small tip that I found quite helpful is that one should avoid excessive violence in one's backstory. Now, of course, with your character being undead, a backstory that involves no violence at all will probably be pretty rare to see, that's not the point. Just like the old trope of memory loss, you should avoid to use it as an excuse for not having to come up with a certain part of your character's story.

For example, the following (part of a) backstory is not necessarily bad:
He killed his parents when he was just a small child.

But most of the time something like this is used, it's because the author doesn't want to think about what his parent were like. However, by writing that in, it has an adverse effect on both other players and the author himself: the others want to explore that part of the backstory and may ask the character about his parents, and then the author either gets flustered about what to say about them or just shuts down the topic, may even get touchy. As in "I told you they're not part of his life, stop making me think about it."

Of course you don't have to have a minute-by-minute recollection of what your character did at every point in his life. While in general, parents should at least be considered and you should at least know what kind of emotions your character relates to his parents (and, ideally, why), if you really don't want it to be a point at all it's probably better not to say anything. If it does come up, however, you may then have to work things out on-the-fly.

...I think I digressed a little.

Here's a real-life example of excessive violence. In the backstory of my first character ever, she read an ancient evil book as a kid and it made her accidentally wipe out her entire village. Then she just wandered the world in confusion over what happened. While I did somewhat establish the existence of their parents, and to this day have a rough image of the village in my head, doing it like this meant that it was hard to base a personality off of that. It came over time, as I was playing her, but certainly didn't make it as easy to get started as I'd have hoped.

Other "cheap-out" tropes like it are, as mentioned, memory loss, and possession (also kind of included in my first backstory).

Again... this is not to say you can't have loads of violence in your backstory, it just must not be used as an excuse for not coming up with any backstory. And if pro players read stories starting with "ran away from home cuz she was beaten" or "Lost his memory after a recent... event" they might be slightly prejudiced towards the rest of the story. Especially for beginners, using violence sparingly or very consciously can be a good "trick" to force themselves to write a better story. Even for experienced players it's a good thing to keep in mind, of course.
 

derula

#TeamWraith
Risen
Immemorial
Ageless
OG 2020
Grim Scribe
Eternal Champion
Vampire Scholar
Feb 21, 2018
160
214
118
And a separate post after I read your two example backstories; I enjoyed them quite a bit, and can serve as a bit of an example to my points. They contain violence, but the violence doesn't take away from anything, overshadow other things, or are the core focus of the stories. Done very well.